Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Puerto Rico: Governor Signs Two Amendments to Firearms Statute into Law

According to The Latin American Tribune, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed into law on Monday (December 2) two amendments to the island’s firearms statute toughening the penalties for illegal weapons possession and for firing shots into the air, the latter of which is a common occurrence during holidays, but is rare on the US Mainland.

“Whoever fires a weapon into the air, possesses or carries an illegal weapon, will have to serve jail time without the right to probation or to diversion programs,” said García Padilla upon signing the amendments.

The amended law mandates a minimum five-year prison sentence for anyone found guilty of firing a weapon, regardless of whether others people were present or not at the site where the shooting occurs and whether or not a bullet injures anyone.

The amendments become effective immediately.

Anyone who allows someone else to fire a weapon into the air on their property and does not report them will face a fine of $1,000.

Gun dealers convicted of selling firearms to unlicensed individuals and people found guilty of illegal possession of weapons will also not be eligible for parole, probation or any other form of sentencing reduction.

COMMENT: “Violence has no place in our society and, although we’re strengthening the preventive programs, we’re not going to tolerate anyone else evading, due to technicalities or plea bargaining, their obligation to serve jail time for firing or using a firearm in an illegal manner,” said the governor at a press conference after the signing ceremony.

The amendments are designed to put an end to the Puerto Rican custom of celebratory gunfire, a practice that has taken a number of lives and injured numerous people all over the island for decades.

Unfortunately, neither amendment does very little to address the nearly 400,000 illegal firearms in the hands of criminals on the island, despite a 15-day general amnesty period during which people in possession of illegal firearms may turn them in without penalty.

In the interest of transparency in the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD), a regulation should be instituted mandating that each month the PRPD release data to the public as to how many illegal firearms have been confiscated from criminals.