Why Illegal Guns Flourish in the Philippines?
In a society where individuals don’t trust the authorities to protect their interests, people are taking the law into their own hands with homemade firearms.
Advertising Jose, a 35-year-old Filipino, is looking forward to brisk business ahead of presidential elections next May.
But he is not in the market to provide campaign placards or even the food candidates are fond of handing out to the poor to attract votes.
Politicians are among a steady stream of clients for the revolvers and machine pistols Jose produces in the backyard of his home in Danao City on the central Philippine island of Cebu.
“Usually we sell a lot when an election is coming and on our part we are very happy,” Jose told Reuters in his stuffy one-man workshop devoted to churning out the crude, illegal but highly effective weapons.
With as many as one in 80 Filipinos owning a firearm, and gun licences regarded as optional, shootings over trivial incidents such as traffic altercations are commonplace.
After several shootings sparked by My Way, the Frank Sinatra favorite has become a song to avoid at karaoke bars.
But it is during the Philippines’ bitterly fought elections that gun violence traditionally surges as rival clans with long histories of enmity battle for dominance and to settle scores.
Jose is one of an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people in Danao who work in the gun trade – as many as one in 10 of the population – giving it the dubious distinction of being the gun capital of one of the world’s most trigger-happy countries.
Many of the 6,500 people murdered every year meet their end from the barrel of a gun turned out by makeshift factories such as that of Jose.
“We are just doing this for our livelihood, for the money,” he said. “If we could feed our families with other jobs we would do it.”
Since World War II, when traders in the area supplied Filipino guerrillas with weapons to fight the occupying Japanese, Danao has armed everyone from political barons and security guards to Muslim rebels.
Most of the gunmakers, who work secretly in backyards, or in the surrounding sugarcane fields and rolling hills, are well known to the police, but they typically turn a blind eye in a city where there are few jobs and high unemployment.
“I guess some of them just pity these guys because they have no other work and they feel they may go into some other really illegal things, like maybe joining the subversives,” said Ramon Durano III, mayor of Danao City, referring to Communist rebels active there and in troubled Mindanao province to the south.
Critics say the police and the military allow the trade to flourish because they profit from it themselves.
There are certainly profits to be made. Jose sells machine pistols for up to US$215, with small calibre .38 revolvers going for a bargain US$27 — still equivalent to a few weeks’ wages for many.
By contrast, the city’s 50 legal gun makers work in a cooperative and have to split the proceeds from sales of just 10 to 15 firearms a week.
Police estimate there are 800,000 registered guns in the country and at least another 400,000 illegal ones.
Many of the Danao weapons end up in Mindanao, the main base of several Muslim rebel groups fighting the government.
Japanese “yakuza” gangsters and Taiwanese criminals are said to have been customers, smuggling the weapons home on fishing boats.
About 100 people died in election-related violence in limited national polls in 2001, 31 of them either incumbent officials or candidates.
Ramon Durano, father of the mayor of Danao, who established his family’s iron control over the city, was an archetypal provincial warlord complete with a large private army.
“Politics in Cebu is a battle of survival in a very physical sense … you simply cannot allow yourself to be shot by gangsters,” he wrote in his autobiography.
The heavy-handed tactics used to secure votes in the Philippines have become less blatant in recent years but the highly charged atmosphere ahead of next May’s election has again stirred the specter of bloodshed.
Opposition politicians have warned of a government-rigged poll, while members of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s camp have described the candidacy of actor Fernando Poe as a desperate bid by the opposition to grab power.
Source: Taipei Times
Is Making a Gun Easy?
Sometimes things go wrong, and sometimes they go really wrong.
It is at those times when you may find yourself in need of an improvised weapon. You may need to make a gun to defend yourself, or you may only make a gun to aid in aquiring a better gun.
Whatever your needs, you can make a gun with commonly available materials and tools, ingenuity, and hard work.
The purpose of a gun is to fire ammunition safely towards a target.
To understand how to make a gun, you must first understand ammunition.
Modern ammunition consists of four main components:
- A piece of lead or another soft metal which is called the bullet.
- A small amount of smokeless gunpowder which creates and enormous amount of gas as it burns. This gas forces the bullet through the barrel and towards the target.
- An extremely small amount of pressure-sensitive explosive which starts the smokeless gunpowder on fire. This is called the primer.
- A brass or steel casing which holds the bullet, the powder, and the primer.
These components put together are often referred to as a cartridge.
The bullet will be seated in one end of the casing and the primer will be on the other end. .22 caliber ammunition is rim-fire, meaning that the primer is stored in the rim of the cartridge. Most other calibers are center-fire, meaning that the primer is stored in the center of the end of the cartridge.
The Components of an Improvised Gun
The Gun Barrel
A gun must have a barrel. A pistol may have a barrel of only a few inches, while rifle and shotgun barrels tend to be 16″ or more.
In production quality firearms, rifle and pistol barrels have small grooves cut into the insides of them. These grooves do not run straight, but are instead curved slowly along the length of the barrel. This is called rifling. Rifling causes the bullet to spin as it passes through the barrel. This spinning helps to stabilize the bullet and make the gun more accurate.
Most improvised guns do not have rifled barrels, because rifling is difficult to create in an improvised workshop.
Improvised guns commonly use steel gas or water pipe for barrels. Steel pipe will make an effective shotgun barrel, and will even serve as a short pistol barrel. Steel pipe will not make an effective rifle barrel.
The choice of what caliber of improvised firearm to build is usually determined by what ammunition you have been able to scrounge up. 1/4″ pipe will hold .380, 9mm, .38, and .357 ammunition. 3/4″ pipe will hold 12 gauge shotgun ammunition.
The Firing Pin
The primer is pressure sensitive. This means that when we strike the primer hard, it explodes. The term primer comes from “primary explosive”, meaning it is the explosive which detonates first and is responsible for detonating the secondary (larger) charge.
Smokeless gunpowder is a very safe material. It can be safely stored, transported, and even burned. It is only useful (and dangerous) when it is ignited in a confined space, such as inside an ammunition cartridge.
The primer is protected behind a thin metal wall. The job of the firing pin is to strike that thin metal wall hard and fast. The primer is pressure sensitive. When struck by the firing pin, it will detonate, which will create a flame and ignite the smokeless powder.
The Breech Block
When the smokeless powder ignites, it will create an enormous amount of gas. This gas must go somewhere. We want this gas to escape by pushing the bullet out of the front of the gun. We must ensure that the gas does not push the cartridge casing out the rear of the firearm, as this can be deadly for the person holding the firearm.
The rear of the firearm is called the breech. To prevent the cartridge casing from exiting through the breech, we must block the breech somehow. The mechanism we use to do this is called the breech block.
The breech block is the most difficult part of an improvised firearm, and the most varied. They tend to be manufactured from whatever is available and looks sturdy. The breech block is complicated because it must block the breech while concurrently allowing the firing pin access to the primer.
One good form of a breech block is a simple pipe cap with a hole drilled into it for the firing pin.
The firing pin must strike the primer hard and fast. The best ways to accomplish this are to make the firing pin rest naturally against the primer and use some sort of force to pull it away from the primer.
These force usually consists of a set of strong rubber or elastic bands or a set of metal springs. These are attached to the firing pin and the firin pin is pulled back. When the firing pin is released, it strikes the primer and causes the gun to fire.
In production quality firearms, a block is usually placed in front of the firing pin to prevent accidental discharge if the firing pin is struck or if the weapon is dropped. Few improvised weapons will have such a device. Be careful.
Warning and Disclaimer
Making an improvised gun can get you into trouble in two ways:
It can anger whatever totalitarian regime you live under, causing them to imprison or kill you.
If you make a mistake, the laws of physics can maim or kill you.
To prevent the first danger, be certain to research all applicable federal, state, and local laws wherever you live before embarking on a project such as this.
To prevent the second danger, be certain that you understand each and every step that you are taking. Think about the forces involved and the directions which they are facing. If you have more than one round of ammunition available, test-fire your gun by attaching it securely to a tree or other large object and fire it from a safe distance using a rope.
Firearms ended the dark ages and brought us the gifts of civil equality: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Be careful that you do not lose those gifts to prison or death by careless firearm handling.