On Thursday, Presiden Carlos Alvarado and the Minister of Public Security, Michael Soto signed the Reform to the Law on Weapons and Explosives (Reforma a la Ley de Armas y Explosivo), a law that tightens gun controls.

At the end of the ceremony in downtown San Jose on Thursday there was a symbolic act of weapons destruction. Photo Casa Presidencial

At the signing ceremony that took place in the Plaza de la Justicia, in San Jose, the government took the opportunity to announce a reduction in murders and an increase in the confiscation of illegal weapons.

“Up to today we’ve had 201 murders in the country, which sounds like a lot but if we compare it to last year, we have 47 less,” Minister Soto.

“This is great progress,” he said, adding that 67 percent of murders are committed with firearms.

“We are demonstrating, with measures like this one, that Costa Rica is capable of moving towards a safer country with less impunity,” said President Alvarado in his comments thanking legislators for the approval (on April 9) of “this important reform” to the current law.

With the new law, sanctions double from 4 to 8 years in prison to whoever purchases, distributes, transports, stores, enters the country, exports, conceals, manufactures, assembles, transforms, performs national or international brokerage or use weapons prohibited by this law, and its parts and components.

In addition, the time of imprisonment ups from 3 to 5 years for having an illegal weapon that fails to register them.

Individuals or businesses failing to to report the loss of or theft of a weapon within five days face fines of up to 60 days. In addition, pawnshops (compra y ventas) that receive firearms, ammunition, explosives in a guarantee of a loan will face a sanction of 5 base salaries (¢2.2 million colones). Meanwhile, private security companies will be forced to hand over their weapons to the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica (MSP) in case of reporting the closure of operation in order to prevent them from ending up in the hands of criminals.

At the end of the ceremony there was a symbolic act of weapons destruction.

According to the MSP, 863 guns have been seized so far this year, 34 more than in the same period last year. “These weapons can take someone’s life,” said Soto.

Costa Rica saw a sharp increase in its murder rate between 2012 and 2017, reaching 12.1 per 100,000 population, dropping slightly to 11.7 in 2018, but almost twice the global average of 6.2 in 2015, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

However, it is much lower than the 2017 average of 22 in Latin America and the Caribbean, considered the most violent region on the planet, accounting for 39% of the world’s murders according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study last year.

In the IDB study published last November, the cities of Caracas (Venezuela capital), Acapulco in Mexico, San Salvador, the capital of El  Salvador and San Pedro Sula in Honduras are the most violent in the world and all have a murder rate of more than 80 per 100,000 inhabitants, between 10 and 20 times greater than the world average.

“Every effort will be made to regulate or educate gun control is a victory for our society,” said President Carlos Alvarado.