Monday, February 11, 2008

Gun Culture

One of the things I've noticed in the Philippines is that armed guards are very common. In the U.S. you normally see these only around "high security" areas such as banks and airports, but here almost any properous business will have armed security guards at the main door. Hotels, malls, clubs, parks, and restaurants all have a guard or two, who usually do double-duty as a doorman.

The guns themselves are also interesting. When the U.S. does put an armed guard or police officer somewhere, they are usually equipped with a SIG or Glock -- an semi-auto pistol with a large magazine. Police and guards here are equipped with a large variety of pistols, mostly revolvers (complete with Wild West ammo belt). Occasionally you will see one with a pump shotgun. Rifles and submachine guns are noteably absent, even at the airport and president's palace (I saw a single guard post outside the palace with an M-16 leaning inside the post, and a couple guards with MP-5 submachines outside a bank). It's possible this difference in equipment is legislative, but I suspect economics -- guns are expensive and labor is cheap. Some of the guns look fairly battered (taped grips, etc.), and others look well cared for but old (the guards outside the palace had M1911 Colts that look like they could have been WWII surplus).

According to Joahnna's cousin Donna, the guards in front of our hotel do use their guns occasionally (Aunt Lyn lives across the street from the hotel she works at -- hard to argue with a commute like that), but the usual perpetrators are drunk customers at the club next door rather than any organized activity.

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