Vol.19  No.0215
Friday Edition, February 15, 2019 Second news page
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Majority of firearms linked to crimes
were not registered, study says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Directorate General of Armament of the Ministry of Public Security maintains a large number of firearms in its custody. The weapons are related to judicial proceedings around homicides from 2013 to 2018. Of this number, the majority were not registered with the Directorate General of Armament.

The report, "State of Armed Violence" is the result of a study made by the Directorate General of Armament. It is based on a sample of 495 weapons in custody and that were related to homicides.

The results of that study showed that 312 weapons, or 63 percent, were not registered in the Directorate General of Armament. The rest of the weapons, 183 or 37 percent, were registered.

The study does note, however, that it was difficult to tell if the 312 weapons had ever been registered as their serial numbers had been filed off.

Of the remaining weapons, 143 were registered in the names of persons and 40 were registered in the name of companies. None of the weapons used in the sample belonged to the government.

The Ministry said that of the 143 weapons that were registered by people, only 10 were reported stolen. Of the 40 registered by companies, only 6 were reported stolen.

The Ministry said that bill #20508 and bill #20509 that would reform the Weapons and Explosives Law are currently being studied in the Legislative Assembly. These two new bills "raise the obligation to report if the weapons are stolen or lost, and if that is not done, establish various sanctions."

Eduardo Solano Vice Minister of Security, said it, "is important to have these tools of law (referring to the two new bills) that allow us to generate better controls on firearms and thus avoid a move from the licit market to illegality".

Regarding to the ownership of arms in Costa Rica, as A.M. Costa Rica reported in January, the Minister of Security, Michael Soto, called on the deputies to amend the law on the possession of weapons.

The minister is requesting that the law can be changed to reduce the number of weapons that can be owned from three to one per person.

The Minister defended his position on reducing the number of weapons allowed per person to one each. He appeared before the Drug Trafficking and Security Commission of the Legislative Assembly to answer questions about the new bill to reform the Weapons and Explosives Law.

"I do not intend in any way to disarm citizens and reject those statements made by some people," said Minister Soto.

Still, lawmakers on the committee ended up approving a limit of three firearms per person.

Although Soto wanted to lower the number of guns a person could own, he said that the regulation would only apply to new buyers. "All those who have registered two or more firearms will be respected," said Minister Soto.

The minister said that the main objective of this bill was to regulate the number of weapons in the country as an issue of national interest.


Gun021519.jpg 
A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo

The two new bills "raise the obligation to report if the weapons are stolen or lost, and if that is not done, establish various sanctions.", said Minister


"This is due to a fundamentally technical reason,” said Minister Soto. The more weapons that exist in the society, more likely it is that some could end up in an illicit market and be used to commit crimes.



According to the information provided by the minister on the possession of weapons in the country:

- There are extreme cases including one person who owns 202 registered weapons and others have owned between 30 and 40 weapons.

- In 1999, there were 109,000 weapons registered in the Directorate General of Armament, while, as of December 2017, a total of 244,455 guns were registered. The number of weapons increased 135,455 in 18 years.

- The 895 companies that provide private security service have 8,706 registered guns but no one knows what the 285 companies that closed down did with their 5,100 weapons.

As a result of the analysis made by the deputies, committee members approved a motion for citizens to have the right to own three weapons each and not just one, as Minister Soto proposed.

According to the statement of the final bill approved by the Security and Narco-trafficking Commission, "People cannot register more than three firearms for personal use to keep their families and their patrimony safe."

These modifications were made to bill #
20508 and bill #20509 of the Weapons and Explosives Law.

Currently, deputies are continuing to analyze the rest of the motions before passing the proposal on to the full legislature for a final decision.




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