By John McPhaul
Ariel Torres Meléndez, president of the Corporation for the Defense of Puerto Rico Weapons License Holders (CODEPOLA by its Spanish acronym), said Thursday that the women’s advocate erred in pointing to the new Weapons Law as a triggering factor in the increase in cases of gender violence.
“[Women’s Advocate] Lersy Boria Vizcarrondo charges that the nine cases of femicide that have been reported so far this year have as a common denominator that none of the victims asked for help and that they were committed by people with weapon licenses,” Torres Meléndez said. “What she did not say is that the new Weapons Law provides remedies for these circumstances, but the State does not execute it accordingly.”
First of all, Torres said, Boria Vizcarrondo stressed that gender violence is a serious problem where “we all have to do our part. Family and friends are indispensable in this fight. Those who see or know of situations of domestic violence must report it to the corresponding authorities and not become accomplices, with their silence.”
Despite Boria Vizcarrondo’s criticism of the Weapons Law, the women’s advocate has downplayed the role of guns in incidences of domestic violence.
“Through the cases of femicide, we can see that the victims of gender violence have died by way of a firearm,” she said in a written statement on June 9. “Other causes are to blame for this cruel and sad act.”
“On the other hand,” Torres Meléndez noted, “it was reaffirmed that the Puerto Rico Weapons Law in no way affects the fight against violence, since women also have guarantees in the law so that, if they want to and are in need, they can protect themselves, requesting their bearing of arms.”
Torres Meléndez stressed that CODEPOLA has been consistent in the fight against gender violence.
“When we understood that it was an urgent need, we began to offer tools to women to empower themselves in self-defense issues,” he said. “Through the Codegirls, we have offered seminars to guide both men and women on this issue of violence, as well as theoretical and practical workshops to teach them how to defend themselves in any circumstance where their lives are in danger, when they do not have a firearm for self-defense.”