Gun laws in Puerto Rico

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Location of Puerto Rico in relation to the continental United States

In Puerto Rico, law regulates the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition. As a commonwealth of the United States, Puerto Rico is subject to US federal laws and constitutional rulings.[1][2] Firearm licenses and firearm-related crimes are defined in Act 404 of 2000.[3] At least two other bills have been proposed since then to replace the existing law.[4][5]

On December 11, 2019, Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced signed the Puerto Rico Weapons Act of 2020, which went into effect on January 1, 2020. The law lowered fees, implemented a shall issue regimen, combined the possession license and carry license into a single license, instituted carry reciprocity and stand your ground.[6][7][8]

Summary table[edit]

Subject/Law Long guns Handguns Relevant statutes Notes
Permit required to purchase? Yes Yes
Firearm registration? Yes Yes
Assault weapon law? No No
Magazine capacity restriction? No No
Owner license required? Yes Yes As of January 1, 2020, the owner license and carry license are the same.[8]
Permit required for concealed carry? Yes Yes As of January 1, 2020, shall-issue.[8]Previously may-Issue according to law, but permits were rarely granted to ordinary citizens. Unrestricted concealed carry was technically allowed from June 20, 2015 to October 31, 2016 following a lawsuit challenging Puerto Rico's restrictive gun laws. The lower court ruling striking down many of the territory's laws was appealed by the government to the Appeals Court, which reversed the lower court's decision. The Puerto Rico Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of the Appeals Court ruling from the plaintiffs in the case, effectively restoring Puerto Rico's restrictive permitting policy for concealed carry.[9]
Open carry allowed? No No Permitless open carry was technically allowed from June 20, 2015 to November 16, 2016 following a lawsuit challenging Puerto Rico's restrictive gun laws. The lower court ruling striking down many of the territory's laws was appealed by the government to the Appeals Court, which reversed the lower court's decision on November 16, 2016. The Puerto Rico Supreme Court has declined to hear the appeal of the Appeals Court ruling from the plaintiffs in the case, effectively restoring Puerto Rico's ban on open carry.
NFA weapons restricted? Yes Yes
Peaceable journey laws? No No Federal law (FOPA) applies.
Background checks required for private sales? Yes Yes

Licensing process[edit]

Individuals who wish to purchase a firearm to keep at home must be 21 years or older, be a US citizen or legal resident of Puerto Rico, never have renounced US citizenship, not be under a restraining order, submit a notarized application, three character references from individuals who are not close relatives of the applicant, proof of non-delinquency in child support payments, fingerprints, photographs, and pay a $100 fee. The license holder is limited to possessing two firearms (there is an exception for firearms acquired through inheritance), purchasing up to 50 bullets per year per firearm possessed, and may only purchase ammunition of the firearms' caliber. If any of the bullets are used or lost, police authorization is required in order to replenish them. After the license is granted, the police are authorized to "passively, without disturbing the peace and tranquility of the individual under investigation or violating the privacy of the home"[10] continue investigating the license holder to ensure that no false information was provided by the applicant during the application process. The license must be renewed every five years by submitting a sworn statement and paying a $100 fee.

The government issues different licenses for those who wish to engage in hunting or target practice. These other licenses require additional fees and relax restrictions on the number of firearms and bullets the license holder may possess. Applicants for a concealed carry permit are required to testify before a judge that they fear for their safety or have a legitimate need to carry a firearm.[11] Carrying a firearm without a license is considered prima facie evidence of intent to commit a crime.

Despite these restrictions, in 2014 there was a 56% increase in the number of licenses issued compared to the previous year. The police attributed the increase to the people's desire for more protection.[12] Applications for gun licenses rose by 70% after Hurricane Maria in 2017 due to concerns over the widespread electrical outage and police absenteeism.[13]

Legal challenges[edit]

In 2015, as a result of a class-action lawsuit with over 800 plaintiffs, a lower court ruled that several provisions of the law were unconstitutional. The ruling was overturned after the state government appealed. The Puerto Rico Supreme Court declined to hear the case, leaving the appellate court's ruling in place.[9]

In September of 2016, a firearms instruction company sued the state government in federal court, arguing the unconstitutionality of several provisions of the law. There has been no ruling as of January 2018.[14][15][16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Gun Laws: Puerto Rico", National Rifle Association – Institute for Legislative Action. Retrieved August 03, 2014.
  2. ^ "Puerto Rico", Handgunlaw.us. Retrieved August 03, 2014.
  3. ^ "Act 404 0f 2000". Office of Management and Budget. Retrieved on January 27, 2018.
  4. ^ "P S2466". Office of Legislative Services. Retrieved on January 27, 2018.
  5. ^ "P S0439". Office of Legislative Services. Retrieved on January 27, 2018.
  6. ^ "Ley de Armas de Puerto Rico de 2020" (PDF).
  7. ^ "Synopsis" (PDF).
  8. ^ a b c "Translation Shows the Full Benefits of Puerto Rico's New Gun Laws". The Truth About Guns. 2019-12-18. Retrieved 2020-02-05.
  9. ^ a b "Tribunal Supremo reitera constitucionalidad de la Ley de Armas" ("Supreme Court reaffirms constitutionality of the Firearms Law"), Noticel. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  10. ^ "Ley de Armas de Puerto Rico según enmendada hasta el 26 de agosto de 2014". Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  11. ^ "Puerto Rico Gun Laws Guide", Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Retrieved August 03, 2014.
  12. ^ "Más Puertorriqueños Armados" ("More Armed Puerto Ricans"), El Nuevo Día. Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  13. ^ "Huracán María dispara las peticiones de armas". Primera Hora. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  14. ^ "Text of filing". Noticel. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  15. ^ "Cruz-Kerkado et al v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico et al". PacerMonitor. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  16. ^ "Cruz-Kerkado v. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (3:16-cv-02748)". CourtListener. Retrieved January 27, 2018.

External links[edit]