Explosion of Gun Ownership in Puerto Rico

NSSF FFL Need to Know
Explosion of Gun Ownership in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO-(Ammoland.com)- On January 1st, 2020, The Puerto Rico Weapons Act of 2020 went into effect to bring Puerto Rican law into greater alignment with US law. The act made it easier for Puerto Ricans to own and carry firearms.

The law turned Puerto Rico into a “shall issue” territory for the issuance of an ownership license and concealed carry permits. Before the new law, it was almost impossible for citizens of the island to navigate the confusing maze of requirements to be able to own and carry a gun. The new law also recognized all other concealed carry permits from the United States. It seems like gun ownership has exploded since the change of the Draconian firearms law.

According to FBI data, the month of May saw a 323% increase in gun sales compared to May of 2020.

This number is actually down by 4% from April of 2021, which was another record-setting month for gun sales. Gun shops have sprung up all over the island paradise, leading to Puerto Ricans being able to acquire guns, and they did so in droves.

Puerto Rico used to have a “may-issue” license scheme to own a firearm before the new law passed in 2019 and went into effect in 2020. In the past, the prospective gun owner would have to spend several thousand dollars in attorney fees to appear in front of a judge to plead their case for owning a firearm. There would be no guarantee their license would be granted.

The requirement for pleading your case in front of a judge is now gone. Once a person receives their license to buy a firearm, they also receive a concealed carry permit automatically. The permit and license are one and the same. Gun owners can also own short-barreled rifles and shotguns without getting a tax stamp and going through the national firearms act requirements because the island considers tax stamps to be a form of “taxation without representation.” SBRs and SBSs are sold over the counter as regular firearms.

The explosion in gun ownership in 2021 could be due to the backlog of processing of firearm license applications. According to the law, the territory has 45 days to approve or deny a gun license. It is currently taking Puerto Rico about a year to issue a new firearms license. That delay could be the reason why we are seeing an explosion in gun ownership on the island in 2021.

Even though that the Puerto Rican government is far exceeding the 45-day mandate, they claim they are within the law. The government claims the timeline doesn’t begin until the future gun owner files their paperwork. All paperwork must be filed in person with their local police through an appointment. The clock will not start ticking until that point in time.

Right now, it is taking a year to get the appointment with the police department. The island territory is claiming the bottleneck is due to COVID-19 and budget cuts. But the long delay hasn’t discouraged Puerto Ricans from getting their firearms licenses. There are no signs that the buying spree on the island is slowing down.

Even though there is still licensing requirement, and to many gun-rights activists, this runs afoul of the right to bear arms, Puerto Ricans are embracing guns, and gun culture.


About John Crump

John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.

John Crump

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Finnky
Finnky
1 month ago

My knowledge could be out of date, but last time I looked at the 2020 law they still had some draconian restrictions. (1) Limited to two firearms TOTAL, with some exceptions for inheritance, and maybe antiques or nonfunctional items. (2) Limited to purchasing fifty rounds per year (I think that was per gun). Those rounds must be in caliber matching a registered firearm. Did not examine their carry restrictions much, just enough to convince myself I’d be likely to accidentally break them. Seems they still need significant gun control reform, but the 2020 changes were a big step in the… Read more »

HLB
HLB
1 month ago
Reply to  Finnky

I think there is no open carry.

HLB

Tower
Tower
1 month ago

John, Federal law applies in PR. SBR needs to be registered and pay the $200 stamp. Suppressors are illegal. Guns and bullet registry with the police. The previous law had a longer term for government to “grant” the permit, otherwise they had to issue it. Now you have to wait forever. Is cheaper but it is not cheap, and rights are priceless. By rhe time you have everything set you will be short almost $400. No reciprocity with the states, that is something under discussion now. You can only carry one gun, concealed. No backups. I could keep going but… Read more »

Grigori
Grigori
1 month ago
Reply to  Tower

Good info on the still-present shortcomings of Puerto Rican gun laws. That is weird about only being able to carry one gun. How does ammo registration work in a place like this? I too frequently see where DC’s Gestapo charges people with having unregistered ammo, among other things. Still, this IS an improvement over previous situations for gun enthusiasts in Puerto Rico. As the number of gun owners and carriers grows, hopefully so will restoration of freedom to citizens living there. I recall the crappy days in SC in the 70’s and 80’s and before, when only well connected, rich,… Read more »

Tower
Tower
1 month ago
Reply to  Grigori

Grigori, you can only buy ammo for the calibers of the guns you have registered. Everytime you buy, the shop has a log to document it. You have to show your gun license and enter a 4 digit pin, just like your ATM. The shop will print a form with amount purchased and your info, which you sign. I feel like a criminal when I buy ammo. This is unchanged from the previous law. The law was changed basically because of a judge on a local court that decided on a lawsuit that the law was unconstitutional, a higher court… Read more »

Grigori
Grigori
1 month ago
Reply to  Tower

Thank You for the information, Tower! Yes, that ammo registration and related stuff really sucks! For years I noted that our island paradise states and territories such as HI and PR had such ridiculous gun laws. Right now, if I had to choose between the two, bad as it may be, Puerto Rico is head and shoulders above Hawaii in terms of firearms freedom. I hope it snowballs, getting much better with time for you.

Last edited 1 month ago by Grigori
swmft
swmft
1 month ago
Reply to  Grigori

how strange is it the gangs in all these restrictive places ALL have guns venezuela is that way too it is like government supplies the gangs to keep populace subdued

Grigori
Grigori
1 month ago
Reply to  swmft

Yeah, but if those gang bangers get caught with a firearm in their possession while committing a robbery, rape, or murder, they’ll be in a lot of trouble.
😀

Grumpy
Grumpy
1 month ago
Reply to  Grigori

You mean they might have to post bail?

HLB
HLB
1 month ago
Reply to  Tower

You say “No reciprocity with the states” but the article says “The new law also recognized all other concealed carry permits from the United States”. My memory of the research I did when this new law was passed was that my state side permit would be recognized in Puerto Rico. I was not sure what would happen when I got off of the airplane though. Any stories on that?

HLB

ExGob
ExGob
1 month ago
Reply to  HLB

Maybe that means that the Puerto Rico permit is valid on the island, but not in the USA proper. Of course, if the Dems have their way, PR will be a part of the USA proper soon.

Larry
Larry
1 month ago
Reply to  ExGob

Nah, it can’t work that way, because that’s all up to the state you’re in, and (most? all?) of the constitutional carry states say that any legal visitor from anywhere is allowed to “partake.” CC states are up to ~21 at last count.

Tower
Tower
1 month ago
Reply to  HLB

Not sure how the law is implemented regarding this particular issue. But as I understood after reading the law and a seminar from a lawyer who specializes on it, it now allows for people that visit the island for competition or if you want to go to a range and do some shooting. You have to buy ammo for your caliber only. So it is not like traveling from FL to GA and carrying your gun with you. Having said, there is a push for actual reciprocity.

Tower
Tower
1 month ago
Reply to  John Crump

John, I just took a look at the law and it doesn’t mention anything about NFA exemptions. PR is a US territory and all federal laws apply. Even the constitution was approved by Congress, obviously the 2A was left out. As a territory it has no authority over laws passed by congress.
Part of the process is educating people, and a lot of work is needed in that area. I am guessing that many think that an AR pistol is the same as a SBR.
Thanks for bringing the topic to your readers, is appreciated.