Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla on Monday signed two amendments to the island’s gun law toughening the penalties for illegal weapons possession and for firing shots into the air, a common cause of accidents especially during the Christmas season.
“Whoever fires a weapon into the air, possesses or carries an illegal weapon, will have to serve jail time without the right to probation or to diversion programs,” said Garcia Padilla upon signing the amendments.
The amended law mandates a minimum five-year prison sentence for anyone found guilty of firing a weapon, regardless of whether others people were present or not at the site where the shooting occurs and whether or not a bullet injures anyone.
The modifications will enter into force immediately.
Anyone who allows someone else to fire a weapon into the air on their property and does not report them will face a fine of $1,000.
“Violence has no place in our society and, although we’re strengthening the preventive programs, we’re not going to tolerate anyone else evading, due to technicalities or plea bargains, their obligation to serve jail time for firing or using a firearm in an illegal manner,” said the governor at a press conference after the signing ceremony.
Gun dealers convicted of selling firearms to unlicensed individuals and people found guilty of illegal possession of weapons will also not be eligible for parole, probation or any other form of sentencing reduction.
The measure also includes a 15-day general amnesty period during which people in possession of illegal firearms may turn them in without penalty.
The changes are designed to put an end to the Puerto Rican custom of celebratory gunfire, a practice that has taken a number of lives and injured numerous people all over the island over the years.
There are estimated to be more than 380,000 illegal weapons in Puerto Rico, although it is impossible to know the precise number.