Puerto Rico Gun Sales Surge

Nearly a year after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the island’s recorded gun sales remain higher than ever, federal data shows.

Licensed dealers have transferred more than 18,000 firearms since September 2017, a 37 percent increase over the same nine-month time period recorded the year before. In the first six months of 2018, dealers sold 13,352 firearms — mostly handguns — eclipsing the first half of 2017 by 52 percent.

“There isn’t an adequate number of police to protect the citizens. There just isn’t,” Jose Robles, a retired police officer who lives in a town just outside of San Juan, told Topic during an interview last month. “That was evident in the emergency following Hurricane Maria … [police] had to leave the people without security. They couldn’t do both; there wasn’t enough [of them]. That’s the truth.”

Navigating the island territory’s complex gun laws often requires an attorney’s guidance, though it appears more residents are willing to take on the challenge as police coverage grows thinner by the day, according to local media reports.

In December and January, 20 percent of the island’s 1,300 officers went on strike after officials didn’t pay overtime wages owed for storm recovery. Strained resources — a lingering side effect of Puerto Rico’s $74 billion debt crisis and widespread unemployment — spawned an exodus of 200,000 residents, including 800 police officers, to southern Florida. Nearly half of the island’s remaining 3.4 million residents live in poverty, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Haniel Pomales, a resident of Playa Punta Santiago, told the Daily Mail in September law enforcement abandoned him and others stranded in the resort town after Hurricane Maria tore it to shreds, leaving it vulnerable to looters and others looking to exploit scant police coverage.

“My brother’s friend is a cop, his advice was arm yourselves with whatever you can find and do what you need to do,” he said during an interview with the newspaper 10 days after the storm blew through. “If you had signal you could try calling the cops but they won’t come. He said that if we shoot someone we should just leave their body in the street and they will come and pick it up in the morning.”

Luz Collazo Pagan, a 55-year-old lawyer from Toa Baja — a town of 88,000 residents on the island’s northwestern coast — showed a New York Times reporter the binder full of legal documents she said she uses to help her neighbors buy guns, as part of her family’s efforts to keep people safe after the storm.

Owning a gun in Puerto Rico requires hundreds of dollar for licensing fees, affidavits attesting to “good character” and a months-long wait for police approval. Separate licenses exist for shooting at gun ranges and concealed carrying. State officials also restrict ownership per resident to two guns — each with police registration required — and an annual ammunition budget of just 50 rounds. Replacing spent rounds requires police authorization.

The federal regulations were lifted from June 2015 through November 2016 following a court battle over the constitutionality of Puerto Rico’s gun laws. The temporary reprieve created an effective permitless carry in the territory until an appeals court ruled to restore existing regulations.

Despite its tough restrictions, the murder rate in Puerto Rico in 2016 averaged nearly three times higher than that of Miami-Dade County, Guns.com previously reported. It’s just one reason why not everyone blames Hurricane Maria or decreased police presence for ongoing violent crime, including Secretary of the Department of Public Safety Héctor Pesquera.

“Is it fair to say that more police presence would prevent murders? No,” he said during an interview with Topic. “When we had 17,000 officers in 2012, there were 1,600 murders that year.”

Some of the data supports Pesquera’s position. Murder rates appear down in 2018, according to police data, though its unclear what role power outages played in underreporting.

source: guns.com

  • Andrew Jackson

    Even a person with just half a brain knows that Guns save lives from bad men.

  • kimberpross

    That is a scary situation. Living in poverty, house blown apart along with all you neighbors and looters and likely more dangerous people will take advantage of that with no security presence. Not allowing citizens to easily acquire a firearm in that situation should be a federal offense. Classic case of a good guy with a gun to protect against a bad guy, maybe with a gun. Good guy is usually a LOE. But when they are not present, and not likely to show up, it has to be you. In that case, very unconstitutional.

  • EC

    It would be interesting to know what the murder rate would have been over the years if guns had not been so heavily regulated.

  • I am a retired military and know the limitations of small arms, however, if properly trained and hit the range at least six times a year, should be more keep sharp, because being confronted is no time to practice. Spent 40 in army and a lot as range NCOIC, I know a little about using weapons.Some will never be good at firing, they may close eyes when pulling trigger, not aware of which eye is the eye to use and the biggie not obtaining proper site. More to shooting than most are aware of and this causes that person to be placed in jeopardy.

    • rjdmanfredi

      It is good to shoot well , but we are talking about a deterrent .

  • rjdmanfredi

    There are two crimes here . First and foremost:Owning a gun in Puerto Rico requires hundreds of dollar for licensing fees, affidavits attesting to “good character” and a months-long wait for police approval. Separate licenses exist for shooting at gun ranges and concealed carrying. State officials also restrict ownership per resident to two guns — each with police registration required — and an annual ammunition budget of just 50 rounds. Replacing spent rounds requires police authorization;second , limiting a citizens right to self defense .
    Here come two ,three , four criminals ( more, and there is not enough loot to go around ) , there you are sitting in front of your house armed. What do you think the criminals will do ? What ? What ? What ? ANSWER , THEY WILL GO DOWN TOTHE NEXT HOUSE , SAVING YOU ,YOUR FAMILY ,AND YOUR PROPERTY .

  • Kent Powers

    Because of high regulation & restrictions many of these weapons are illegal, takes too long, you’d be dead already waiting on the government to move, same thing will happen here if guns become regulated, black market would go ballistic.

  • L Cavendish

    guns are great equalizers…especially when you are confronted with multiple attackers or larger, younger, more fit ones
    hand to hand is great if a fair fight…one on one…similar builds and backgrounds…but that is RARELY the case