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.
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-
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
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
-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^
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