IN the wake of the latest tragic mass shooting incident in the United States, several of our readers and even a few of our own colleagues have noted, with evident relief, that this horrifying and peculiarly American epidemic is at least not something we experience here in the Philippines.
The extent of the problem in the US is astounding. According to widely circulated statistics, “mass shootings,” if defined as incidents in which four or more people are wounded or killed by gunfire, have occurred at least 355 times this year in the US, or about once a day. Sometimes, they happen more often than that: On Wednesday (Thursday here in Manila), the same day the tragic shooting in San Bernardino, California claimed 14 lives and wounded at least 21 others, there was another shooting in Savannah, Georgia that killed one person and wounded three more.
Similar crimes do, indeed, happen here from time to time. In May 2008, 10 people were gunned down inside an RCBC bank branch in Laguna as part of a robbery. The most spectacular incident in recent memory, of course, is the shamefully as-yet unresolved Maguindanao massacre in November 2009, in which 57 people – including 34 journalists – were gunned down in a politically motivated ambush. In October 2010, eight people lost their lives in the Manila Bus massacre. And in January 2013, a former barangay chairman in Kawit, Cavite, killed nine people in a shooting spree.
But even as tragic as those incidents were, that record pales in comparison with the near-daily occurrence of multi-victim gun killings in the US, and the implication is that, despite the Philippines’ acknowledged problems with maintaining peace and order, we are somehow “a better people” than the Americans, who refuse to make the connection between too many guns being freely available to almost everyone, and virtually constant gun violence.
Not so fast. Despite the attention-grabbing nature of the struggle with gun violence in the US, the Philippines remains a far more violent place. According to statistics gathered from the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, the Philippines ranks 10th in the world for gun violence, with 9.46 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people every year. The most dangerous country in the world is the tiny Central American nation of El Salvador, which is overrun by drug gangs and has a gun-related death rate of 50.36 people per 100,000. The US, despite the impression the news makes, only ranks 28th in the world, with about 3.55 gun deaths per 100,000 people.
While we sympathize with the victims of the latest shooting incident in the US – and yes, shake our heads a bit at America’s inability to get a handle on its gun problem – we should also remind ourselves that our own efforts to create a safer, more law-abiding nation are far from adequate, and must be among our highest priorities for ourselves and those who would ask for our votes in next May’s elections.