Legislators of the Security and Drug Trafficking Commission (Comisión de Seguridad y Narcotráfico) have been engaged in a debate about the number of guns a person in Costa Rica can have.
Currently, the legislation allows an individual to legally have three weapons. However, a reform of the Weapons and Explosives Law (Ley de Armas y Explosivos) would reduce the amount to one.
At the committee level, the proposal to reduce the number of guns was initially supported by the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC), the independents of the Nueva República bloc and the Partido Republicano Social Cristiano (PRSC).
“The problem is not with the legal owners of guns, but the criminals who get them back in the black market” Legislator Zoila Rosa Volio
However, on Monday, the legislators of the committee voted for a motion to leave the number unchanged, despite the insistence of the Minister of Security, Micheal Soto.
Soto argued that the greater the number of weapons, the more likely they up in the hands of criminals.
The argument did not sway the majority of the legislators.
PLN legislator Gustavo Viales, chairman of the Security and Drug Trafficking Commission (Comisión de Seguridad y Narcotráfico) explained that his party bloc is demanding valid technical criteria from the Ministry of Security before it would support the reduction initiative to the full legislative assembly.
The number of legal guns in Costa Rica went from 99,000 in 1997 to 244,000 in 2017. However, there is a large black market, that could easily double or more the actual number of guns in the possession of the public.
According to data cited by PAC legislator Enrique Sánchez, 80% of the owners of legally registered weapons have only one, while 16% have two and 4% have three or more.
The legislator added that the idea of registering firearms every three years is aimed at traceability, but that does not happen.
The Ministry of Security said that it confiscates, on average, an illegal firearm every four hours. Punishment for the illegal possession of a weapon is minimal, in most cases, only community work is considered as punishment.
For her part, Zoila Rosa Volio, legislator of the Partido Integración Nacional (PIN), who did not support the bill to reduce the number of guns in legal possession of the public, said that if a person uses their ‘legal’ weapon to defend themselves, it would be confiscated by the Organismo de Investigacion Judicial (OIJ) leaving them defenseless, however, when it comes to criminals, they can easily obtain another weapon in the black market.
“The problem is not with the legal owners of guns, but the criminals who get them back in the black market,” said the legislator.
In addition, Volio assured that Russian made weapons are entering Costa Rica directly from Nicaragua that can be purchased in the black market.
“No criminal will go to get a permit to carry weapons, let’s not be ridiculous. Let’s call things the way they are,” she emphasized.