Yup. August, a slow news week.

So we read this headline: US most armed country, with 90 guns for 100 people.

U.S. citizens own 270 million of the world’s 875 million known firearms, according to the Small Arms Survey 2007 by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies.

Well, yes. That sounds about right.

Like many Americans, I am actually in favor of gun control. My grandfather was a policeman, and he saw children accidentally killed playing with their father’s gun, so we had no guns in our house.

But when I married and had boys, my own house had four people and five guns: My husband (a doctor who took narcotics on house calls) had a pistol. But the main reason for the guns was hunting. In our area of Pennsylvania it was one mile to the state Game lands, and hunting was a religion. School was closed for the first day of deer season. So we had a deer rifle, a shot gun, and a 22 rifle.

Yum. Venison Kielbasa

In Europe, hunting is for rich people. Farmers might have guns for small pesty animals, but poor people don’t hunt.

In the US, hunting is part of the way of life, not just in the “good old boys” of the south, but among Polish coal miners of rural Pennsylvania or the Native Americans of Minnesota.

And in the US, Rural people eat what they catch (and their neighbors look the other way when they have three deer carcasses, two of which are “illegal”, hanging up in their garage).

But the article doesn’t distinguish hunting guns from those used for self defense.

I’ll leave it to the NRA to argue about the need of handguns for self defense in the USA.

But the clue to the problem of guns elsewhere can be found in the observation that only 12 percent of the guns are estimated to be registered. Translation: It’s the criminals stupid.

But guns are also being sought by middle class businessmen for protection, and as globalization increases prosperity unequally in traditionally poor regions the demand for guns will increase:

“Weapons ownership may be correlated with rising levels of wealth, and that means we need to think about future demand in parts of the world where economic growth is giving people larger disposable income,” he told a Geneva news conference.

And herein lies a tale.

Many third world countries forbid private ownership of guns, but if someone robs your business or breaks into your home, you are defenseless. That is why in many third world countries,  you see security guards everywhere, often carrying semi automatic rifles.

Here in the Philippines, private guns are forbidden. Marcos passed a law making handguns by private citizens illegal.

As a result, every store has at least one security guard with an MK47, M16 or shotgun sitting outside, and every politician has his own private army of security guards (who sometimes shoot it out with the private security guards of other politicians).

But the dirty little secret is that many middle class people have guns hidden away for protection (and the poor rely on machetes).

Because of the threat of crime, the growing middle class here in the Philippines are moving into gated communities with armed security guards.

But we live in the downtown business area, and since we gave away our illegal guns when my husband had his stroke, our main means of protection are six large dogs that are kept chained during the day and let loose at night to wander around our buildings inside the fence.
But I bet we are then only ones in the neighborhood who doesn’t have a pistol or rifle locked away for protection.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket 

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