Gunman Kills 2 as Philippine Weapons Ban Fails to Stop Violence

A Canadian man on trial in the Philippines for damaging property shot and killed two people in a courtroom before turning the weapon on himself, raising concern that a national weapons ban is failing to stem attacks.

A doctor and a lawyer were killed when the suspect, John Pope, opened fire inside the courtroom in Cebu City south of Manila, police Senior Superintendent Mariano Natu-el said in a mobile-phone text message today. The suspect shot himself in the head after being wounded by a policeman who responded to the attack, Natu-el said.

A national gun ban took effect on Jan. 13 to help counter an expected surge in violence before mid-term elections in May. Philippine President Benigno Aquino also announced a crackdown on unregistered firearms earlier this month, days after at least 21 people were killed in separate shooting incidents, prompting public debate on the need for tougher enforcement.

“There should be stricter gun laws,” Ramon Casiple, executive director of Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila, said by telephone. The proliferation of firearms is a “contributing factor” to recent cases of gun violence, he said.

The suspect in today’s Cebu shooting smuggled the weapon into the court building. The doctor who was killed sued Pope, his neighbor, for allegedly breaking an apartment door, according to police. Pope had claimed the doctor ignored complaints about excessive noise, according to police.

Supreme Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said he ordered the suspension of hearings in the Cebu courthouse pending an investigation of the shooting incident.

Aquino removed 24 police officers on Jan. 15, including the regional commander, after an encounter the day before where a suspected criminal was killed in Batangas province south of Manila. Authorities are also investigating the killing of 13 people in Atimonan, Quezon, on Jan. 6 in a shooting incident involving police and military.

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