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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Mayor criticizes bill allowing gun shooting ranges within 300 meters of schools

Mayor of Morovis Carmen Maldonado González

By John McPhaul

The mayor of Morovis, Carmen Maldonado González, again drew attention to the danger she said is posed to the island’s security by the substitute for House Bill 575 and House Bill 382, which would allow the establishment of shooting ranges and clubs 300 meters from schools.

“Who needs to have armories near where our children study?” asked the former vice president of the Popular Democratic Party.

Already in November of last year, Maldonado González had warned that the House of Representatives bill would change the current Law of 2020 that requires at least one mile between such businesses and schools. “Honestly, I don’t know what they’re thinking about when they approve such a thing. I hope that the Senate will block the passage of this initiative, because it has no benefit for the general population,” she said.

The measure was approved on November 9 of last year with 33 votes in favor and 12 against. The measure went to the Senate, where it is assigned to the Committee on Public Safety and Veterans Affairs chaired by Senator Thomas Rivera Schatz. “One would reasonably think that legislative measures are being introduced to provide greater security in our communities. The approval by the House, which also gives the green light even for ammunition to be sold to unlicensed people within shooting clubs, which could be allowing such people to leave the club with such ammunition. Worse, it allows a person with up to three violations of ostentatious possession to apply again for a license, after one year, without any requirement other than the lapse of that year. It also limits inspections of armories to an annual inspection, when the current law states that they are done every six months. Can anyone explain what is the benefit to citizens who cry out for security?” asked Maldonado González.

According to legislative records, what was approved was submitted under the petition mechanism by the Corporation for Legal Assistance for the Defense of the Holder of Weapons Licenses of Puerto Rico (CODEPOLA by its Spanish acronym). The two original bills that ended up in a substitute were House Bill 382 filed by New Progressive Party Representative Yashira Lebrón and House Bill 575, filed by Popular Democratic Party Representative Ramón Luis Cruz Burgos and New Progressive Party José Enrique Meléndez.

A CODEP”OLA spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

“In a country where homicides, murders, and other gun crimes are the order of the day, these representatives who approved the bill should explain to the public what are the reasons for voting in favor of amendments to the Act. Since they intend to address gun issues, then they should legislate to improve education in Puerto Rico. There is no weapon more powerful than education,” concluded Maldonado González.

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