Opposition growing against restrictive firearms bill

Opposition is growing among Costa Ricans and expats to a more restrictive firearms bill now in the legislature. The bill is patterned after the 2010 presidential decree that stripped rentistas and pensionados of the right to own and carry firearms.

The bill is No. 18050 that would limit citizens to a single firearm and also require a reason they would want to carry a concealed weapon. Curiously, the current draft of the measure would allocate three handguns each to every minister and vice minister in the government without any need for them to show competence.

Costa Ricans opposed to the measure are meeting Tuesday at the Asociación Nacional de Fomento Económico in Barrio Francisco Peralta to discuss the bill.  Already there is a petition drive sponsored by the Web site armascr.com.

An organization called Asociación Pro Defensa Civil y de la Seguridad Ciudadana has prepared a highly critical analysis of the bill.

The interest of expats in the right to possess firearms was demonstrated Saturday when 44 persons attended an informational meeting co-sponsored by the La Garita Pistol Club and A.M. Costa Rica. Among those at the session was one expat who had passed all the required tests and was about to obtain a firearm permit when President Laura Chinchilla issued her decree limiting firearm possession to only citizens and permanent residents. In the past, persons with other types of residency could earn a permit.

The Asociación Pro Defensa Civil points out that the proposed law is highly bureaucratic and carries an anti-firearm tone.

“The contents are not legal or transparent principles but a series of ideological aspects of extreme pacifism completely disassociated from reality,” the organization says on its Web site.

There are two elements that are important to expats, even if they hold permanent residency. The first is the requirement to obtain a police clearance letter from their country of origin in order to obtain a gun permit. There is no indication of what this paper is and why someone who has been in the country long enough to be a permanent resident would need to get one. The process for legal immigration requires a similar document as part of the application process.

The second element is the requirement to show the need to carry a concealed weapon. That would seem
to give officials a right of refusal if they did not agree with the reason.

Some expats also have argued against the rule limiting individuals to a single weapon. Paul Furlong of the La Garita Pistol Club told expats Saturday that it took him eight months to have a weapon returned after he used deadly force to save the life of a neighbor. If an expat were limited to one weapon, crooks would know he or she was disarmed after the expat was forced to use it.

President Chinchilla seeks to reduce the availability of weapons to cut violence, but as the Asociación Pro Defensa Civil says the firearms bill is almost completely about legal weapons and not the illegal ones used by crooks.

The proposed bill also continues the requirement that those seeking the right to have a firearm or to carry one concealed must pay a psychologist or psychiatrist to evaluate the applicant’s mental state. Professionals generally acknowledge that a single interview is inadequate for this purpose. That aspect of the law was put into force during the Abel Pacheco administration, He is a psychiatrist.

The need for personal self defense is made clear daily by home invasions and street robberies. An expat in  Chacarita, Puntarenas, is the last victim of intruders. He was shot in the buttocks in his bedroom early Saturday morning.

The Sala IV constitutional court has declined to rule on the case of a pensionado resident who was stripped of his 10-year-old right to carry a firearm by the presidential decree. That decision came down in October 2011.

Although the expat called the decree discriminatory and damaging to his fundamental rights, the Sala IV said that the legal conflict was outside of its area of competence. That position is at odds with Anglo Saxon jurisprudence where self defense has been considered a fundamental right since at least the 17th century.

The meeting is Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the offices of the Asociación Nacional de Fomento Económico. This is an organization that says it is a defender of liberties. The location is 200 meters west of Casa Italia and on the north side of Sacred Heart Church. Admission is free but organizers ask that those interested in attending  confirm  participation at 2253-4460, 2224-7350 or 8996-6569 or by email to info@anfe.cr. The meeting will be conducted in Spanish, but several bilingual expats said they would attend to help those who are not fluent.

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