The San Juan Daily Star
Gun owners’ group objects to ammunition purchase limits
By The Star Staff
The Public Safety, Science and Technology Committee in the island House of Representatives began public hearings Thursday on House Bill 1648, which would limit the amount of ammunition sold annually to licensed gun owners, hunters or target shooters.
Penned by Reps. José Bernardo Márquez Reyes, Juan José Santiago Nieves and Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Nuñez, the tripartisan bill would limit to 500 rounds the amount of ammunition for each weapon that the individual owns, up to an annual overall limit of 5,000 bullets.
Currently, under Act 168-2019, known as the Weapons Law of 2020, there is no limit to the amount of ammunition that a person with a weapons license can buy, and it is not until the purchase amounts to 20,000 rounds in a year that the police are able to corroborate the use of ammunition.
During the hearing, Johnny Acevedo, director of the Puerto Rico Police Bureau’s Weapons Regulation and Licensing Division, supported the proposed amendment to the measure since most of the homicides and robberies committed on the island involve the use of firearms.
“The acquisition of thousands of rounds of ammunition in a year is unreasonable,” said Acevedo, who likewise favored establishing a limit to the purchase of ammunition for people dedicated to the sport of target shooting at a maximum of 10,000 rounds and not 5,000, as provided in the amendment to the statute. He said more than 26 million rounds of ammunition were sold in Puerto Rico in 2002.
“During 2023, the figure is 8.5 million,” he said.
The president of the Corporation for the Defense of the Puerto Rican Weapons License Holder, Ariel Torres Meléndez, rejected the bill, which he considers unconstitutional.
‘’The problem of the rise in crime is not in legally acquired ammunition and weapons. The problem comfortably resides in other aspects that, in effect, can be legislated,’’ Torres Meléndez said. “Attempting to amend a weapons law protected by a constitutional right for the mere fact or allegation that some people have violated the law is simply unacceptable. Surely such an amendment would not hold up in court.”
Torres Meléndez asked that no more legislation be used to deprive people of their rights and urged the authorities to attack the illegal trafficking of arms and ammunition “instead of legislating against those who fully comply with the laws and the established order.”
Elba Cruz, a lawyer at the Department of Justice, emphasized that “there is no doubt that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental one and that its regulation in Puerto Rico has historical roots.”
“Similarly, we state that the Department’s position is to ensure compliance with the law in society and prosecute those who commit criminal violations,” she said.
Cruz specified that there is no legal impediment to reducing the legal purchase of ammunition in quantity from 20,000 to 5,000 rounds. However, she raised a flag that limiting the amount of ammunition a person with a weapons license can buy must be analyzed in the crucible of the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Special Investigations Bureau Commissioner Rafael Freytes Cutrera, meanwhile, stressed that limiting the amount of ammunition that a person can acquire is not the appropriate solution to the problem of the illegal sale of ammunition.