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Negative Stereotypes Hurting Gun Stores Sales
Gun Shops Say They Have Nothing To Do With Crime
By TAINA ROSA
February 12, 2004
With news of gunfire claiming lives in Puerto Rico appearing almost on a daily basis, and legislators intent on amending the law regulating arms possession, sales at local gun shops are down. The owners and managers of these shops, however, told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS that it is ridiculous to blame them for selling guns to criminals because criminals would never be able to get a license.
Victor Gonzalez, owner of AAA Gun Shop, said CARIBBEAN BUSINESS that sales at local gun shops have decreased an estimated 6%. He attributes the reduction to a slow economy and to legislators who want to amend the law regulating arms possession without having enough information.
"Our sales have gone down because of the way media and government officials portray gun shops," said Miguel Encarnacion, owner of the Bulls Eye Gun Shop in Fajardo. "How can they say gun shops are responsible for crime on the island? Criminals cant get their guns from us; they need a license." Encarnacion, who is also president of the Fajardo Gun Club, added that the number of club members has declined as well.
Marcel Blay, vice president of Armeria Metropolitana, said his sales have been pretty much flat. Like Encarnacion, he thinks its silly for anyone to believe firearms bought at a gun shop are the ones being used in criminal acts. "Criminals dont buy guns from us; they buy them on the street."
Gonzalez said that according to federal statistics, 70% of the arms used in criminal activities in Puerto Rico werent registered. "Most come via mail or the airport," he said. Other sources said a good number of them actually come from the polices own arsenal of confiscated weapons. Gonzalez provided statistics indicating that in 2003, police confiscated 600 AK-47s and about 250 AR-15s, fewer than the 200 AK-47s and 170 AR-15s sold by gun shops.
Luis Lopez, owner of G.L. Armory in Mayaguez, added that his sales, too, have been decreasing. "The process of obtaining a license to own a firearm is so tedious and even humiliating that many decent civilians simply decide not to purchase one," he said.
Blay explained that to obtain a license to carry a gun, an applicant must obtain a certificate of good conduct, three legal affidavits from people who know him or her, and a certificate from the Child Support Administration.
Lopez, a former police officer, added that applicants must also agree to a police investigation at any time. "This is a big problem because the police will usually go around asking your neighbors about you. If one neighbor dislikes you and says something negative, even if untrue, the police will issue a summons to have you appear in court." Gonzalez noted, however, that if a neighbor lies about a gun-carrying neighbor, he or she could face penalties.
The latest version of the law on arms possession took effect March 2001 and is actually better than the previous version, according to Gonzalez. The newer version allows licensed gun owners to have up to two guns, whereas the previous version allowed only one. Although the latest version of the law has helped local gun shops recuperate some sales, legislators attempts to make the law stricter threaten them, said Gonzalez.
"Imposing more restrictions on firearm licenses doesnt reduce crime; it actually does the opposite," said Lopez, who believes, instead, that gun ownership deters crime. "Lets say everyone in Puerto Rico owned a gun. Criminals would think hard about breaking into a house or attacking someone because they know they could be the ones shot."
A book entitled "More Guns, Less Crime" by John R. Lott Jr. seems to support Lopezs theory. According to the book, many countries with high rates of gun ownership have low crime rates, such as Switzerland, New Zealand, and Finland. Others have low gun-ownership rates and low or high crime rates.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.