Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
The government’s proposal as espoused by president Laura Chinchilla, would curtail the ease in obtaining gun ownership permits in Costa Rica. The proliferation of firearms, especially among a population with little safety education or concern makes stricter laws necessary. And that includes foreigners accustomed to laxer gun laws.
Incidents involving guns occur every day. Daily radio and TV news tell us what is happening on the streets and in homes. Drug violence. Domestic violence. Gang violence. Violence resulting from drinking. Shootouts at soccer games. North American ex-pats are also part of this scene. Last year a former marine, shooting off a gun from the balcony of his home killed a medical student visiting the house next door. Many expats feel that a gun, or guns, are necessary for security. However, the judicial Investigating Organization, the investigative branch of the courts, says that guns are reported lost or stolen every day. And 70 percent of homicides are committed with guns, a majority of them registered. Even law abiding citizens consider using guns as threats.
A gun is absolutely no guarantee of protection in a home or business. How many homes or stores with guns on the premises become victims of robberies, break-ins or invasions, and in such a case the gun will be taken along with the other valuables in the house. The criminal, entering with a gun a hand, is prepared to shoot. The victim is taken by surprise.
There is also the effect of a shootout in which family members or innocent people get shot. Stray bullets kill and injure people every year. The national Children’s Hospital last year treated twelve cases of gunshot wounds and that doesn’t include those who died on the spot.
Those who say that guns are needed for self defense argue that the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which states that a well regulated militia for the security of a free state, guarantees right of the people to keep and bear arms. Does that allow the people to keep unlimited numbers of arms in their homes? Also amendments and laws can be changed through the will of the people. Prohibition was proscribed by an amendment and later repealed. Besides, the Second Amendment doesn’t apply here. This is not part of the United States.
Remember too, that if North American foreign residents and visitors demand their right to have an unlimited number of arms available for protection, the same rules would apply to Colombians, Dominicans, Jamaicans, Russians and all other foreign residents and visitors.
The government of Costa Rica has the right, even the obligation to protect its citizens, even if we consider the means harsh. Traffic laws are needed to protect us from irresponsible drivers, speeders, drunken drivers, drag racers and others who put us at risk. Strict rules of the road have reduced traffic deaths and injuries. Lately the government through Children’s Hospital and other agents have warned parents about baby walkers because several children have been seriously injured using these walkers. They may be banned in the future. Food products are removed from shelves if there is any suspicion of danger. Guns provide a much greater risk than cars or baby walkers.
Last year a transit police officer and several private security guards were killed for their guns. Do you think you can respond to an armed criminal any better? And if you feel the laws here are unfair, well, don’t stay here.
Women’s International League
for Peace and Freedom