Until last week, Puerto Rico had the most restrictive gun laws in the United States. In Puerto Rico, the possession of firearms has always been regarded as a privilege, not as a Constitutional Right.
While Puerto Rico has had extreme infringements on Second Amendment rights, it also had extreme crime and murder rates, far higher than any state in the United States. Puerto Rico’s murder rate averages four times the murder rate of the United States as a whole.
However, the extreme violence — a characteristic of liberal US cities with restrictive gun laws — looks set to be consigned to the dustbin of failed liberal history, after Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced signed Act No. 168. into law.
It is the most sweeping change in firearms law in the history of Puerto Rico and means the island territory will respect the Second Amendment for the first time in history, allowing law-abiding citizens to defend themselves in the face of criminality and extreme violence.
Two things seem to have led to the massive reform of Puerto Rico firearms law.
- First, the actions of the United States Supreme Court in recognizing the Constitutional protections of the Second Amendment in the Heller and later, the McDonald, Supreme Court cases.
- Second, the utter failure of the extremely restrictive Puerto Rico gun control scheme.
While Puerto Rico has had extreme infringements on Second Amendment rights, it has had extreme crime and murder rates, far higher than any state in the United States. Puerto Rico’s murder rate averages four times the murder rate of the United States as a whole.
In 2016, the FBI Uniform Crime Report shows Puerto Rico with 19.9 murders per 100,000 population. Louisiana is the closest state with 11.8 murders per 100,000 population. The District of Columbia, as a federal territory, edges out Puerto Rico with 20.4 murders per 100,000. The District of Columbia is one of the few places in the United States that could claim, in 2016, to have more infringements on Second Amendment rights than Puerto Rico.
Perhaps this is why, when those pushing for a disarmed society compare gun control regimes and crime rates, they conspicuously ignore Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. 2016 is not an outlier. It is representative of the last 20 years, at least.
The reason for the passage of Act. No. 168 is stated as the necessity of bringing Puerto Rico law within the protections of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Caveat: Act No. 168, and other Puerto Rico law is written in Spanish. What is quoted below are translations to English.
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 of 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 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.