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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Gun owners’ rights advocate: More seniors are looking into firearms

Ariel Torres Meléndez, president of the Corporation for the Defense of the Puerto Rico Weapons License Holder

By The Star Staff

The current crime wave has spurred an increase in the number of older adults who want to learn how to handle firearms for self-defense, said Ariel Torres Meléndez, president of the Corporation for the Defense of the Puerto Rico Weapons License Holder (CODEPOLA by its Spanish acronym).

Torres Meléndez noted the increase in daily visits that he is receiving in his offices from senior citizens, as well as from women, both single mothers and married women accompanied by their husbands.

“I’m seeing a different dynamic,” Torres Meléndez said. “Before, it was common to see many young men apply for a gun license and submit their documentation for the procedures to the Puerto Rico Police, but we saw how every day women approached us and now it is the older adults asking for guidance and initiating the procedures to carry weapons and, sadly, the recent murders, committed vilely against the elderly population, confirm that insecurity is a fundamental issue that the government must address urgently, not by applying band-aids.”

He noted that the feeling of insecurity and the objective risk of victimization “paralyzes us.”

“We leave public spaces at the mercy of criminals because many older adults have chosen to lock themselves in their homes after the sun goes down for fear of crime,” Torres Meléndez said. “But we also see how other older adults have begun to address the problem seriously, with dignity, and want to prevent their becoming just another statistic. They reject the false idea that only the state can protect them and understand that as individuals they can be part of the solution and they do not intend to sit back and wait for death. That is changing in Puerto Rico and the adults who come to CODEPOLA for guidance are the best example.”

Torres Meléndez added that he has always been consistent that the right to bear arms is an individual right that we all have under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, he has also been emphatic that “just because you have a gun you are not ready to use it and kill.”

“Having a gun, with a license that protects you, is to defend your life,” he said. “So, it is the responsibility of each one to have this knowledge and develop our skills with firearms by practicing continuously, because all freedom comes with responsibility.”

Torres Meléndez has been insistent in asking the island government about what its strategies are going to be, in conjunction with the federal government, to prevent the transfer of illegal weapons through the docks and airports. Likewise, “in the face of budget cuts due to bankruptcy and the requirements of the Financial Oversight and Management Board, we see how every day we have fewer law enforcement officers on the streets protecting citizens,” he said.

“No one here is blaming the police,” Torres Meléndez said. “I’m saying that they can’t cope with the high incidence of crime because they are not preventing the illegal entry of weapons and drugs. That’s the real problem.”

He added that many robberies, carjackings and home assaults are for petty motives, while some are to feed a drug addiction.

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