Friday, April 3, 2009

Gun Law Finally Approved

After months of discussions, lobbying, arguments, and negotiations between various factions of Congress, and many changes to the text that was originally submitted in October 2008, the law was passed.

The law contains several new features that are considered essential to address the violence in the country.

Among the most important as well as controversial is the creation of the Directorate General of Arms and Ammunition (Digecam) of the Ministry of Defense, but to be transferred within a period not exceeding two years after the legislation takes force, to the Interior Ministry. This was one of the major points and discussion, as some factions felt that the government cannot fulfill the responsibilities. But agreement was finally reached.

The new law establishes the filing requirements for purchasing a weapon, including a background check with law enforcement, certification of income, employment record, and personal identification documents, among others.

Despite the controversy, the portion of the text giving special consideration to government staff and former staff, chairs of agencies, the Vice President, deputies, ministers, attorney general, former officials, judges of the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, among other officials.

The monthly limit of munitions that may be purchased is fixed 250 per gun license and 200 in possession at any one time.

One of the main novelties introduced by the law is the making of sentences for violations of this law incommutable. Violations of the new law will result in the confiscation of all weapons. Illegal carrying of weapons brings an 8 to 15 year prison sentence depending on the type of weapon (not commutable). The law criminalizes illegal exports and imports, 5 to 10 years in prison, selling of an illegal weapon or ammunition, 5 to 12 years, and explosives, 10 to 15 years. The law also makes illegal the firing of a weapon without just cause, a crime that will result in one to three years in prison.

During the same session, legislators removed a paragraph of Article 71 of the act which stipulated that legislators and officials would have the privilege to obtain, in a maximum of 30 days from the filing of an application, a license to carry offensive and defensive weapons. These are exclusively to be used used by the army and security forces.

The plenary session finally ended at 7:00 PM with members of Congress welcoming the adoption of the text, which is considered essential to stem the violence in Guatemala.

No comments:

Post a Comment