From Jan. 1, 2020, Puerto Rico’s new weapons law will come into effect. The current governor, Wanda Vazquez Garced, signed Law No. 168 on Dec. 11, which completely rewrites the gun law.
The Ammoland Shooting Sports News report reveals that in Puerto Rico the possession of firearms has always been considered a privilege, not a constitutional right.
Puerto Rico has one of the most restrictive firearms laws in the United States. In 2016 there were only about 225,000 legal firearms in Puerto Rico representing 6.6 legal guns per 100 people, the lowest level of possession of legal firearms in the United States.
One of the factors that led to the reform of Puerto Rico’s gun law was strict gun control, as the island experienced extreme rates of crime and murder, and the murder rate is four times higher than that of the United States as a whole.
According to a CBS News article, the top FBI official in Puerto Rico, Douglas Leff, said the island faces a “crisis of violence” linked to gangs and drug trafficking. For this reason, earlier this year Leff asked Washington for staff and resources to support local law enforcement.
Those who insist on a “weapons-free zone” ignore that places like Puerto Rico are going through dangerous situations as a consequence of an unarmed society.
Article 168 of the new firearms law establishes the need to include Puerto Rico’s right in the protection of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“Given the decisions of the Supreme Federal Court, it is necessary to take action to safeguard and protect the rights of American citizens residing in Puerto Rico, through a new Weapons Law that is consistent with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, with decisions by the Supreme Court, and make it clear that, in Puerto Rico, carrying and possessing firearms is a fundamental and individual right, as in the rest of the Nation,” the article in the new law points out as quoted by Ammoland Shooting Sports News.
The most sweeping change in Act No. 168 is to eliminate the restrictive and burdensome requirements of the old law in obtaining a permit to purchase, own, or carry firearms. The new law enacts a shall-issue system that requires a permit to be issued if the applicant meets the legal requirements. The legal requirements are essentially the same as in the United States for firearms ownership; except for a uniform minimum age of 21. This was likely influenced by recent legislation in California, Washington, and Florida.
Costs under the old system were upward of $1,500, with no guarantee of obtaining a permit to possess a weapon at the end of the long process. Under the new law, the costs are approximately $200, with the guarantee of a permit, if the applicant does not fall into one of the prohibited categories. The permit is valid for five years. The renewal fee is $100.
Under the new law, a permit to own includes the right to carry a firearm for defense in public, if the firearm is concealed. Obtaining a permit to carry, under the old system, was even more difficult and costly than obtaining a permit to own a firearm. The government has a limit of 45 days in which to investigate and issue a permit. After a year, the limit will be reduced to 30 days.
Warning of the new firearms law
“Every person, not authorized to have firearms under Puerto Rico laws, and who does not hold a valid weapons permit issued in any state, enclave, possession or territory of the United States of America, who brings a firearm with him/her or in his/her luggage, must give immediate notice to the Ports Authority Security Office and an officer of the Police Bureau of Puerto Rico upon arrival. Noncompliance with this notice may carry prison penalties. The Ports Authority Security Office and/or an Authorized Agent will inform you on how to proceed with your weapon,” the new legislation states.
Under the new law, if a firearm owner buys more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition in a year; or more than 10 firearms in a year; the chief of police can investigate to make sure that the ammunition and firearms were purchased for legal reasons.
The collection of firearms is specifically protected by the new law. There are no limits on the number of firearms that can be collected.
Under the new law, “assault weapons” are prohibited, except for those people with a firearm permit.
The Puerto Rico government also said it will encourage target shooting. The law requires authorities to promote the establishment of clubs, shooting organizations and competitions.
People without firearms permits will be allowed to shoot at licensed ranges.