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Pacific Stars and Stripes Newspaper Archive: May 20, 1997 - Page 5

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Publication: Pacific Stars and Stripes

Location: Tokyo, Japan

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   Pacific Stars And Stripes (Newspaper) - May 20, 1997, Tokyo, Japan                              PACIFIC STAES AMD STRIPB TUESDAY, HAY 20,1997 5The Associated PressHew South Wales Police Department workers look over weapons citizens have handedin for refunds. The rapid-fire rifles are then destroyed at this secret facility.BYVlfAYjOSHIThe Associated Press "SYDNEY, Australia -— Swinging ahammer, Al Egan hacks at a serniautib-matic rifle. Soon, the gun is dismem-bered — the barrel, the wooden butt andmetal parts strewn across a bench.All around him, in a room filled withthe clang of bludgeoning hammers,Egan's friends pulverize an endless lineof rifles and shotguns disgorged by aconveyor belt."A, lot of engineering has gone intosome 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 theworst 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 policedon't want criminals raiding the arsenalto steal weapons.Officials say the guns are broken upwith hammers because it would be toocomplicated to develop machines thatcould handle the variety of sizes and ma-terials. The metal parts are melted formaking such products as paper clips andtoys, and the wood and plastic also arerecycled.Australia outlawed semiautomatic ri-fles and shotguns and pump action shot-gunslast June, only a few weeks after aderanged gunman wielding assault rifleskilled 32 tourists and townspeople atPort Arthur, Tasmania.'The gunman, Martin Bryant, barricad-ed himself in an inn with three hostagesand burned them to death the next day.He was captured, pleaded guilty and isimprisoned 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 marketprice, regardless of the weapons' age orcondition.It is the first time anyDnation has triedsuch a program. ttSo far, the government has paid about$156 million for more than 380,000^fire-arms that Australians have turned in atpolice stations, said Mick Roelandts, theprogram's police manager.In all, 1 million firearms are expectedto be turned in by the time the amnestyends Sept. 30, he said. "Among the weapons taken in werefour plastic-barreled "orange cannons,"usually used by fishermen to throw baitand line far into the water. But gang-sters use them to fire frozen "oranges,which at a distance of about 100 feet canblow a hole through a person."It is costing the Australian society alot of dollars, it is true. But tragedieslike Port Arthur cost the society a lotmore not just in terms of money but intrauma," he said. aThe most^expensive guns that policehave purchased were four Italian-madeCosmi shotguns, often described as theRolls-Royce of firearms. They cost thegovernment $23,400 each.Describing himself as ."stumped bythe variety of weapons in Australia,"Roelandts said private owners, collec-tors, dealers and criminals also havesurrendered a range of submachineguns; including Uzis, Steiis and Brown-ings. Such weapons had long been il-legal '"'." • •..-.' -\.. .So far the crackdown, begun last fall,has only pushed the gunsmiths fartherinto the forests and mountains, thecraftsmen say.Residents say Danao's gun manufac-turing began in 1905, when a man start-ed making bronze guns and moved tothe mountains to avoid police. There hetaught farmers ,how to make arms, andmany "soon abandoned fields for higherprofits 'j£ gunsmithing. Demand waslargely from local warlords.Over the years, "Nobody has had thepolitical will to stop it," says Byron Gar-cia, head of a local gun factory. "If youdo, 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 ableto 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 goto order their gun of choice. "„A Beretta copy sells for about $580,compared to $1;350 for an importedoriginal.-Business is good in the Philippines,where many cars sport "Pro-Gun''bumper stickers and fear of crime hastriggered an explosion of private securi-ty agencies. 0Demand for Danao's guns an&even itscraftsmen have reached as far as Japan.Othelio Batulan, 48, says he was re-cruited by Japanese yakuza in 1988 andtaken to "make illegal guns at a workshopin Japan. He earned $450 a month forabout 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'tbeen able tp control Danao's gun indus-try, its gunsmiths have gained a hew le-gal alternative in the past year that mayeventually change the industry fromwithin. Two poUtically well-connectedgun factories have obtained governmentlicenses after months of red tape.One is Garcia's Danao Arms Manufac-turing Corp./whose 70 workers make,anything from pistols that slip into apurse 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 higherprofits and independence of working il-legally. .'•;'.'•'•'. ';:V . . '. ', :>."v-V,'-;'.-."-' •''.Garcia, the son of Cebu's governor,praises Danao's hand craftsmanship buto says that one day it will become the in^dustry's Achilles' heel because of towoutput. ;".-'.''.. ..'., ".. . •••--••. ': ;:; •''-.-''. ' • . ..•''It's hard to increase production. Youneed many more tyoters and a hugework area," he says.In a jiixtaposrabn spanning a centu-ry's worth of teclwiolpgy, Garcia is usingcomputer-controlled machinery to ex-periment with designs for new modelsthat ||| hopes to export to Asian coun-tries, competing with China and SouthKorea."We're still experimenting and im-proving our technology. Maybe in "10years pur name will become known but-side the Philippines,^ he says.tiners 85,00 ^Dis^Web Site: www.Mi9iTel.com mmYokosuka/AtsugiMelissa Leahey at: 264-65220467-78-5015, at tone 264-6522E-mail: Militel@aol.comYokota/Camp ZaniaSusan Hill at: 227-7303towl 0425-^-2510 *x! 77303E-mail: Susan@MiHtel.cobiStart Saving up to 75% Today• K- ' - ' . ' • "l . -.'-,. ' . . .- ' . 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