Friday, December 21, 2012

Costa Rica: Security Chief Suggests Firearms Ban

In the week since the Newtown massacre one of the main worries is how to prevent another mass shooting from occurring.  Could gun control measures such as the reinstatement of an assault weapons ban help?  Are placing more arms in schools and creating a “national database of the mentally ill” sensible or silly? Might reforming the U.S. mental health system help lessen violence?

This week Costa Rican Security Minister Mario Zamora suggested that banning all types of firearms could help diminish violence in the U.S.

“If less firearms are available for the population there will be a lower possibility that they will be used,” he said when asked in a radio interview about his views on the Newtown massacre.

“Human beings may enter in a state of violent emotion and they will react based on what is at their reach,” noted Zamora who also deemed as “erroneous” the belief that greater arms ownership is a solution to combating violence.

According to the U.S. State Department “crime is a significant concern for Costa Ricans and visitors alike,” and the agency advises tourists to exercise the same level of caution that would be used “in major cities or tourist areas” in the U.S.  Nevertheless the homicide rate dropped by 10% in 2011, which Zamora attributed in part to Costa Rica’s gun control laws.

In Costa Rica private ownership of automatic firearms and semi-automatic rifles holding more than ten bullets is prohibited and applicants for a gun owner’s license are required to undergo a background check and provide a “genuine reason” to possess a firearm.

Costa Rica’s gun control laws were tightened in 2012 and this included barring anyone with prior criminal convictions for domestic violence or other violent crimes from owning firearms.  Concerns over weapons ownership and protecting the environment led Costa Rica to become the first Latin American to bar hunting for sport.

Numerous Latin American countries have strong gun control laws though their effectiveness is debatable:
Latin America has the highest regional murder rate in the world, according to United Nations figures, and many of the killings are committed by firearms.
Yet the problem of gun violence in the US may not be comparable to that of Latin America, where there are often strong gun controls but laws are frequently unenforced due to police corruption and incompetence, a situation that Americans mercifully do not have to worry about.

Video Source– YouTube via user cervatiyo (In 2009, Costa Rica prohibited the use of firearms by non-nationals visiting or living in the country).

Online Sources – GlobalPost, Tico Times, The Guardian,, U.S. State Department, BBC News, CBS News, Businessweek, El Nuevo Herald, Ciudad y Poder

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