Pacific Stars And Stripes, May 20, 1997, Page 5

Pacific Stars And Stripes

May 20, 1997

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Issue date: Tuesday, May 20, 1997

Pages available: 35

Previous edition: Monday, May 19, 1997

Next edition: Wednesday, May 21, 1997

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Publication name: Pacific Stars And Stripes

Location: Tokyo, Japan

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Years available: 1948 - 1999

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Pacific Stars And Stripes (Newspaper) - May 20, 1997, Tokyo, JapanPACIFIC STAES AMD STRIPB TUESDAY, HAY 20,1997 5 The Associated Press Hew South Wales Police Department workers look over weapons citizens have handed in for refunds. The rapid-fire rifles are then destroyed at this secret facility. BYVlfAYjOSHI The Associated Press " SYDNEY, Australia -— Swinging a hammer, Al Egan hacks at a serniautib- matic rifle. Soon, the gun is dismem-bered — the barrel, the wooden butt and metal parts strewn across a bench. All around him, in a room filled withthe clang of bludgeoning hammers, Egan's friends pulverize an endless line of rifles and shotguns disgorged by a conveyor belt."A, lot of engineering has gone into some of these beautiful pieces, but de- stroying them does good for everyone," Egan says. He and his 14 colleagues de-molish about 1,000 guns each day. For the past year, responding to the worst massacre by a lone gunman in his- tory, Australia has pushed ahead with an *ambitious plan to buy military-style, rapid-fire rifles from civilians and de- stroy them. The work is done at a police facility ma quiet Sydney neighborhood. The loca- tion is not advertised because police don't want criminals raiding the arsenal to steal weapons.Officials say the guns are broken up with hammers because it would be too complicated to develop machines thatcould handle the variety of sizes and ma- terials. The metal parts are melted for making such products as paper clips and toys, and the wood and plastic also are recycled.Australia outlawed semiautomatic ri- fles and shotguns and pump action shot- gunslast June, only a few weeks after aderanged gunman wielding assault rifles killed 32 tourists and townspeople at Port Arthur, Tasmania.'The gunman, Martin Bryant, barricad- ed himself in an inn with three hostages and burned them to death the next day. He was captured, pleaded guilty and is imprisoned for life. v -,JIn October, an amnesty was an- nounced to let civilians sell their high- power guns to the government — noquestions asked — at retail market price, regardless of the weapons' age or condition.It is the first time anyDnation has tried such a program. tt So far, the government has paid about $156 million for more than 380,000^fire- arms that Australians have turned in at police stations, said Mick Roelandts, the program's police manager. In all, 1 million firearms are expectedto be turned in by the time the amnesty ends Sept. 30, he said. " Among the weapons taken in were four plastic-barreled "orange cannons," usually used by fishermen to throw bait and line far into the water. But gang- sters use them to fire frozen "oranges,which at a distance of about 100 feet can blow a hole through a person."It is costing the Australian society a lot of dollars, it is true. But tragedies like Port Arthur cost the society a lot more not just in terms of money but in trauma," he said. aThe most^expensive guns that police have purchased were four Italian-madeCosmi shotguns, often described as the Rolls-Royce of firearms. They cost the government $23,400 each.Describing himself as ."stumped by the variety of weapons in Australia,"Roelandts said private owners, collec- tors, dealers and criminals also havesurrendered a range of submachine guns; including Uzis, Steiis and Brown-ings. Such weapons had long been il- legal '"'." • •..-.' -\..<'.•••••"; ''•'••.. . •'Police Sgt Peter Starling is an ardent gun lover and used to teach- policemen how to shoot before bepomin&deputy di- rector of the destruction facih'ty. "It is a shame to see some of the guns broken," he said. "But we have to gettliem out of society's way." • That view was widespread in Austra- lia after the Pdrt Arthur massacre, help- ing Prime Minister John Howard over- come the resistance of gun ownership groups to the tightened rules on the weapons civilians may own. Under the new law, farmers who haveto kill vermin may own semiautomatic guns, and professional target shooters'may keep theur sporting guns.Handguns are available, but ownership is highly regulated.T?he National Coalition-for Gun Con- trol, a private jobby group, estimatesthat there are 4 million guns of all types, •one for every 4,5 people. The United States has enough guns to put one in the hand of every citizen. BY DAVID THUMBER . ; The Associated Press DANAO, Philippines — In a clearing hidden by banana and palm trees, five young men lean over a rickety table, fil- ing blocks of hardened steel that after a month of arm-numbing work will be- come beautiftilly crafted working copies of Beretta handguns.Family members keep guard nearby, ready to warn the gunsmiths to disap- pear into an adjacent sugarcane field in case police come.Raids have become more frequent in recent months as the government cracks down on this southern rural town's booming underground industry, hoping to/end its long history as the illegal gun capital of the Philippines.Officials say they want to stop the guns from Danao's many workshops from reaching criminal groups, commu- nist or Muslim rebels, local warlords, o and yakuza gangsters in Japan. In a country with meager indigenousmanufacturing, Danao's estimated 5,000 gunsmiths — armed with hand files, hacksaws and drills — are among the country's most Skilled "metal workers, producing exquisite guns that rival those of major producers. >.So far the crackdown, begun last fall, has only pushed the gunsmiths farther into the forests and mountains, the craftsmen say. Residents say Danao's gun manufac-turing began in 1905, when a man start- ed making bronze guns and moved to the mountains to avoid police. There he taught farmers ,how to make arms, and many "soon abandoned fields for higher profits 'j£ gunsmithing. Demand was largely from local warlords. Over the years, "Nobody has had the political will to stop it," says Byron Gar- cia, head of a local gun factory. "If you do, how Would you feed me 15,000 peo- ple now involved in the industry?" Of that number, about 5,000 aire gun- smiths while the others sell materials, do finishing work or distribute the weap- ons^ Garcia says. Each gunsmith is able to produce one or two weapons a month. Most of the hidden workshops special- ize in knockoffs of a particular brand —Beretta, Smith and Wesson, Colt, Uzi — and customers quickly learn where to go to order their gun of choice. "„ A Beretta copy sells for about $580, compared to $1;350 for an imported original. -Business is good in the Philippines, where many cars sport "Pro-Gun'' bumper stickers and fear of crime has triggered an explosion of private securi- ty agencies. 0Demand for Danao's guns an&even its craftsmen have reached as far as Japan. Othelio Batulan, 48, says he was re- cruited by Japanese yakuza in 1988 and taken to "make illegal guns at a workshop in Japan. He earned $450 a month for about two years but was caught by Japa^ nese police and served nearly threeyears in prison before being deported, he says. •. .;..• .•''.-•* ' :, "'••••'. ' ' •;. :''y.':; , '.•:Althougl^ authorities so far haven't been able tp control Danao's gun indus- try, its gunsmiths have gained a hew le- gal alternative in the past year that may eventually change the industry from within. Two poUtically well-connected gun factories have obtained government licenses after months of red tape. One is Garcia's Danao Arms Manufac- turing Corp./whose 70 workers make, anything from pistols that slip into a purse to Uzi-Uke submachme guns, 'As in the illegal workshops, the gun- smiths rely chiefly on h^^ ceive lower wages^— about $8t) a month. So far, most Danao gunsmiths shun - the legal factories, preferring the higher profits and independence of working il- legally. .'•;'.'•'•'. ';:V . . '. ', :>."v-V,'-;'.-."-' •''.Garcia, the son of Cebu's governor, praises Danao's hand craftsmanship but o says that one day it will become the in^ dustry's Achilles' heel because of tow output. ;".-'.''.. ..'., ".. . •••--••. ': ;:; •''-.-''. ' • . ..• ''It's hard to increase production. You need many more tyoters and a huge work area," he says. In a jiixtaposrabn spanning a centu- ry's worth of teclwiolpgy, Garcia is using computer-controlled machinery to ex- periment with designs for new models that ||| hopes to export to Asian coun- tries, competing with China and South Korea."We're still experimenting and im- proving our technology. Maybe in "10 years pur name will become known but- side the Philippines,^ he says. tiners 85,00 ^Dis^ Web Site: www.Mi9iTel.com mm Yokosuka/Atsugi Melissa Leahey at: 264-6522 0467-78-5015, at tone 264-6522 E-mail: [email protected] Yokota/Camp Zania Susan Hill at: 227-7303 towl 0425-^-2510 *x! 77303 E-mail: [email protected] Start Saving up to 75% Today • K- ' - ' . ' • "l . -.'-,. ' . . .- ' . 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