Police investigate the scene of a gun battle in Kawit, about 40 km south of Manila on January 4, 2013.

Story highlights

Children are reported to be among the casualties

Authorities say they killed the gunman and are searching for an accomplice

Gun crime was already a sensitive issue after a girl was killed earlier this week

CNN  — 

A gunman went door-to-door near the Philippine capital Friday, shooting and killing at least nine people in his neighborhood, authorities said.

The attacker, Ronald Bae, injured several others in Kawit, said Joseph Camaret, a local police officer. The town is about 20 kilometers south of central Manila.

Read more: In Philippines, clans and guns still rule

Bae was subsequently killed in a gun battle with officers who tried to persuade him to surrender, police said.

Authorities are searching for a suspect they believe acted as an accomplice in the attack.

The shooting injured 11 others, according to the official Philippine News Agency. It said casualties included children, but did not specify whether the death toll included the gunman.

Police are still investigating the motive for the attack.

Before the shooting, Filipinos had been debating whether their country, where gun crimes are frequent, needs stricter controls on firearms.

The concerns had been prompted by the death of a 7-year-old girl, Stephanie Ella, who was shot in the head amid celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve, according to CNN affiliate ABS-CBN.

A 4-year-old boy was also killed by a stray bullet on the same day, ABS-CBN reported. But it was Stephanie’s death, which happened while she was watching fireworks with her father, that set off soul-searching about gun ownership in the Philippine news media.

“This incident should not be allowed to become just another statistic,” Vice President Jejomar Binay said in a statement released Thursday.

The Philippines has enough laws governing the use of guns, he said, “but the problem has always been in the enforcement of the laws, especially those on loose firearms.”

The country’s Firearms and Explosives Office says there were 1.2 million registered firearms in the Philippines as of last year, ABS-CBN reported. On top of that, the office estimates there were 600,000 unlicensed firearms in circulation nationwide.

The Philippines has a population of 104 million people.

Read more: Death toll from Typhoon Bopha tops 1,000 in the Philippines