Philippine National Police

Isn’t it dangerous to allow civilians to own semi-automatic rifles?

Jairo Bolledo

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Isn’t it dangerous to allow civilians to own semi-automatic rifles?


(UPDATED) Gun-control policy advocate and former lawmaker Carlos Isagani Zarate says the new policy is headed in the 'wrong direction' because it will only further promote a gun culture in the country, 'especially among the elite who have the wherewithal to purchase these expensive 'toys'

The Philippine National Police (PNP) made a major announcement on Monday, March 4: civilians are now allowed to own licensed semi-automatic rifles.

Sa ngayon po, ‘yong mga private citizens po na nagmamay-ari po ng riple, particulary po ‘yong 7.62 pababa po, at ‘yong kanilang mga baril po ay klasipikasyon po ng semi-automatic, ay pupuwede na po itong palisensiyahan ng sibilyan po,” PNP spokesperson and Public Information Office chief Police Colonel Jean Fajardo said in a press conference on Monday.

(Now, private citizens who own rifles, particularly 7.62 and lower, along with guns classified as semi-automatic, can be entitled to civilian licenses.)

A slight amendment in the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) No. 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act made the new rules possible, Fajardo said. A study by a technical working group suggested the said amendment. The PNP spokesperson added that the suggested changes were already sent to the University of the Philippines Law Center for publication.

What do the rules say?

Under RA No. 10591’s IRR, an ordinary citizen can own and possess firearms if he/she meets qualifications such as being Filipino citizen, at least 21 years old at the time of application, has an occupation, business, or had filed a tax return as proof of income. Aside from these qualifications, applicants should also complete or satisfy the following requirements:

  • Clearance from a court showing “that he/she has not been convicted by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude or that he/she has not been convicted or is currently an accused in any pending criminal case before any court of law for a crime that is punishable with a penalty of more than two (2) years”
  • Neuropsychiatric clearance from the PNP Health Service or its accredited psychiatrist or psychologist
  • Drug test clearance
  • Certificate proving that the applicant passed the required gun safety and responsible gun ownership seminar
  • The following documents: PNP police clearance, birth certificate, proof of latest billing, two valid identification cards, income tax return, certificate of employment, or business permit

The law and the 2018 IRR say that only small arms may be acquired and owned by private citizens, whereas light weapons are exclusive to police, military and other law enforcement. 

The IRR defined small arms as “firearms intended to be or primarily designed for individual use or that which [are] generally considered to mean a weapon intended to be fired from the hand or shoulder, which are not capable of fully automatic bursts of discharge and does not exceed a caliber of a Light Weapon.”

The amendment removes the phrase “and does not exceed a caliber of a light weapon,” based on the rationale that the power of a firearm does not depend on the size or caliber, but on the firing mode: whether it’s fully automatic or semi-automatic. Among the criteria for classification as a light weapon, which is exclusive to law enforcement, is being fully automatic.

By removing that phrase, the practical effect, according to Fajardo, will be that semi-automatic rifles of caliber 7.62 mm and below are considered small arms and may be acquired and owned by private citizens.

Must Read

The Duterte dynasty: Powered by guns

The Duterte dynasty: Powered by guns

In the range of firing modes, fully-automatic firearms are considered most powerful because they can fire in bursts. As a gun enthusiast told Rappler, fully-automatic rifles like MP5s fire 1,000 rounds per minute, while the M4s fire 800 rounds per minute. (Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story interpreted the source’s information as referring to a semi-automatic firearm, when the guns used as examples were fully-automatic ones. This has been corrected.)

Semi-automatic rifles are in the middle for being able to automatically load the next bullet per fire. Considered the least powerful are firearms which do not reload automatically, and require different types of methods to reload. 

Still, for gun-control policy advocate and former lawmaker Carlos Isagani Zarate, the new policy is headed in the “wrong direction” because, he said, it will only further promote a gun culture in the country, “especially among the elite who have the wherewithal to purchase these expensive ‘toys.’”

“It will also further embolden the warlords and the trapos who relied on the 4Gs (guns, goons, gold, and gimmick) during elections to expand and level up the inventory of their armory. This policy should be seriously reviewed, even scrapped,” Zarate told Rappler.

Fajardo said there were safeguards put in place to ensure that the new policy will not be abused.

A Rappler investigation revealed that the Duterte family has at least 477 guns collectively – 101 of which are rifles. Former president Rodrigo Duterte has the highest number of rifles at 73 (READ: Duterte got licenses for over 300 guns 2 weeks before his term ended).

Cornell University defines a semi-automatic rifle as a firearm that “utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”

In using semi-automatic rifles, the shooter needs to pull the trigger to fire a bullet, but the succeeding bullet will be automatically loaded, according to a report by US-based Northeastern Global News. An automatic gun, meanwhile, continues to fire without the shooter having to pull the trigger again.

Semi-automatic rifles, when compared to handguns, can cause even greater damage. A report by ABC7 New York said gunshot wounds caused by semi-automatic rifles can be much worse.

“The degree of tissue destruction will be considerably greater, so rather than a bullet simply passing through an organ, it may inflict a more destructive wound to the organ itself,” Dr. Michael Shapiro, chief of trauma and critical care surgery at Northwestern Medicine in Illinois, told ABC7 in the report.

In some of the mass shootings in the US, the perpetrators used semi-automatic rifles, like in the New York mass shooting in 2022, where at least 10 people were killed. These shootings opened debates in the Western country on whether 18-year-olds should be allowed to purchase semi-automatic rifles. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!
Avatar photo


Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.