Citation(s) from the Gun Policy News media archive

Making a Living in Fake Smith & Wessons

Philippine city's illegal economy rests on firearms' longstanding and lucrative allure

San Jose Mercury News (California)

4 March 2001

Relevant contents

DANAO, Philippines -- In a hillside shanty next door to his one-room house, Romeo Baton clamped a vise around a hunk of steel in the rough form of a .357 Magnum revolver and began filing the edges…

Notwithstanding the guidebooks that tout the region's cottage-cheese industry and snakeskin purse manufacturing, locals insist that the real basis of the economy is the gun industry.

"This is the main source of income for the city of Danao," Salvacion said. "So if we totally stop it, the city will die. When police enforce the gun laws, normally the local politicians intercede on the gunmaker's behalf."

Danao guns are popular elsewhere in the Philippines. When Salvacion worked in Manila, the capital, he used to intercept shipments of up to 200 illegal guns at a time, mostly pistols and .32- and .45-caliber revolvers.

Illegal gun making in Danao is a cooperative effort. Francisco Flores, a local businessman who refers to himself as a "stockholder" in several gunsmiths' businesses, supplies the metal to Baton. (In turn, Flores will sell the weapons at a markup to buyers, who often purchase them in bulk.) Using templates copied from gun catalogs, Baton cuts out the hammer, the trigger and other parts of a revolver. But he can't bore barrels with his crude equipment, so he obtains them from a colleague who owns a lathe. Another gun maker burnishes the final product.

Such family shops are not the only source of Danao's firearms. Two manufacturers hold licenses to produce guns. The government created a factory in town in an attempt to lure gun makers away from their illegal business, but a rival firm soon opened and began cranking out .45s, 9mm pistols and .32-caliber revolvers. And it has no compunction about copying foreign trademarks.

ID: N120

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