New Internationalist

Another gun, another death, another unhappy new year

She would have been a doctor or a singer. Or maybe a teacher. But she will never be any of these things, because on New Year’s Eve, a stray bullet hit her. Her name is Stephanie Nicole Ella and she was seven years old.

She died shortly after New Year’s Day dawned, while most revellers were still hungover after the festivities; while the rest of the world embraced high hopes for another year; and while the person who pulled the trigger to celebrate New Year’s Eve may still not have known that the gun he fired had killed a child.

Nicole looked good in pink. Maybe she loved dolls, too. She would have been a doctor or a singer. Or maybe a teacher. But she now she never will be.

Her death comes less than a month after 26 people, 18 of whom were children, died in a senseless shooting rampage in Connecticut, in another part of the world.

Whether it is 26, 18 or just one, it does not matter. One death is too many.

When will the killings stop?

The Connecticut shootings have triggered renewed debates on better gun control laws in the United States.

The same thing is happening in the Philippines. Many have died in traffic altercations because of irresponsible gun use. Celebratory gunshots during New Year’s Eve have resulted in the deaths of too many people.

In the Philippines, advocates are calling for better gun policies following the death of Nicole. Catholic bishops are calling for the imposition of a total gun ban. There are roughly 1.6 million licensed firearms in the Philippines, according to the Philippine National Police. The same agency estimates that there are nearly 600,000 ‘loose’ or unregistered firearms in the country. The actual number could be more.

In Nicole’s neighbourhood, a densely populated area in the northern part of the National Capital Region, the police have identified four people who admitted discharging a firearm on New Year’s Eve.

The police investigation continues.

When classes opened last week, classmates and teachers of Nicole said they sorely miss her.

Teacher Arlene Arellano admits she almost forgot that Stephanie Nicole was gone, even calling her name during the roll call. Arellano told local news site ABS-CBN that Nicole was one of her best students.

Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu in the southern Philippines, who is president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, believes that the government should consider the proposal to impose a total gun ban instead of just regulating gun use in the Philippines.

‘Maybe it’s for the government to study. There may be some people who may be allowed in some circumstances [to carry guns] but in general the spirit [of the proposal] is good,’ Palma said in an interview with the Inquirer newspaper. Another bishop, Jose Oliveros, was also quoted as saying that he supported a total gun ban because it was in line with the Catholic Church’s pro-life position.

‘We support the total gun ban. We proclaim the gospel of life versus the culture of death,’ he told the Inquirer.

But such calls may fall on deaf ears.

President Benigno Aquino III is himself a gun enthusiast. He is an avid shooter and, along with fellow government officials and friends from the private sector, he hits the firing range regularly.

May gun owners and enthusiasts alike remember the deaths, whether they are in Connecticut or Manila. Remember their names. Remember Stephanie Nicole Ella. She was seven years old. 

Photo: Robert Huffstutter under a CC Licence

Comments on Another gun, another death, another unhappy new year

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  1. #1 fatih 10 Jan 13

    in Turkey, yesterday, a 11 years old child was killed in a same way, too.

  2. #2 Iris Gonzales 13 Jan 13

    Hi Fatih,

    Thank you for your comment. How sad and senseless.

  3. #3 Bar de Ness 15 Jan 13

    An emotive response, understandable under the circumstances, and it's very true that Filipinos are very careless with their weapons, particularly on New Years Eve. Yet,this article doesn't bring anything new to the table. I doubt American citizens are so free and easy with their guns and shoot randomly at times of celebration. I do not condone the carrying of guns, but as a journalist it would have been better if you concentrated more with cause and effect, and the social culture surrounding the issue, and less with the tug on the heart-strings. You do your readers a disservice in that regard.

  4. #4 John 15 Jan 13

    A senseless death? No doubt. Gun control and ban on guns, partial or total? NOT! When the people are not armed, governments do what they do best: take over and the people have no way of defending themselves. Hitler did it, and 6 million Jews died. Look at the UK... did crime go away? NOT. Look at the cities in the US of A where gun control is hard (NY, WDC, etc.) did crime go down? NOT! But by comparison, cities/states where guns are legal and people carry, concealed or open, crime rates are low! Why? It's simple logic: why would a thief risk being shot!? They are thieves but not stupid! The only few words worth reading in your article: ’because of irresponsible gun use.’ The key word is of course ’irresponsible.’
    Ask the right questions instead: why gun ban? What's behind any gun ban? Totalitarianism! What and why shootings like Sandy Hook and any other? And why aren't these people stopped? Because there is no one around with a gun to stop them! Gun bans only take guns away from the good people! The thugs, the thieves, the lawless will ALWAYS have guns and laugh at the law!, so you disarm the good guys and leave them defenseless!? That sounds to me like fascist, socialist or communist thinking (which is all the same!) And before you go on with nonsense assumptions, NO I am not a feral rich, I am just a common guy who believes it is every man's responsibility to provide for himself and his family and that includes being able to defend himself and his family, his country. There is a reason why in the US of A the 2nd Amendment is there! Stop the nonsense, study some history, get your head out of the sand, and have the guts to take responsibility! If one day you find yourself in a situation where a thug is about to rape you, Iris, you will wish you had a gun with you to defend yourself! If you end up under a dictatorship, you will wish the people had guns to get rid of the dictator, etc. Emotions are not a good counselor!

  5. #5 Bar de Ness 15 Jan 13

    In response to John:
    You really need to get a grip with your constitution. The notion that it permits you to carry guns is a misnomer. How many I wonder, have actually read it? How many actually understand it? How many actually know it's origin?

    The rampant display of gun ownership has exceeded the bounds of reason, the extent that gun stores think that Obama is the greatest gun salesman they've got. His crime? He was offended by recent massacres, he was deeply affected by the shootings of innocent children in their classrooms. Surely, a President that wasn't would be heartless? However, his desire to control guns in society has resulted in a hate campaign, and those who advocate guns have all guns blazing against him. Ask yourself, if you had another President, would you be happy if he showed no distress or remorse? What kind of President do you want? His concern has now become a ’cause celebre’. A President who is trying to take away the rights of the individual, the right to bear arms, the attack on the constitution. This move is a direct assault on the freedom of the individual.

    How would the Republican George Bush Jr have reacted? Would he have said that this massacre of children was most unfortunate, but this is the way of things? Would he have said that it was an incidental event, a result of the United States's freedoms (and by the way, watch this drive on a four par hole)?

    Just what is the problem here? The constitution, which the USA adheres to like a bible, is just that - a vintage statement. It had it's place once, in another page of history, but today is not relevant. The history of the USA, and it is a great history, is there to learn and advance, not to dwell on the past. When those founding fathers, and revolutionaries signed the documents, they did not foresee the future - they lived in their world at the time. They never thought that the constitution would be revered to such biblical proportions. Indeed, they would be horrified by that. They escaped from European oppression, to form a new world, and yet they now see their world obsessed by their idealism, and that idealism is killing the children of their vision. That vision has armed a nation, which has grew to be the most powerful in the world. But that wasn't because of the 2nd Amendment - that was because of democracy, intelligence, industry and military might. It has nothing to do with the right to bear arms.

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About the author

Iris Gonzales a New Internationalist contributor

Iris Cecilia Gonzales is a Filipino journalist and blogger. At present, she covers economic news for a Manila broadsheet, but she also writes other stories here and there. She has been blogging since 2004 on various issues including women and children and human rights. She is among the winners in the TH!NK 3 global blogging competition organized by the Netherlands-based European Journalism Centre.

You may email her at [email protected]

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