SANTIAGO – Over the weekend, the mayor of Santiago’s La Reina neighborhood, José Manuel Palacios, offered residents of the community a better deal at the local shooting range so they learn how to use firearms. Meant to deal with increasingly violent and rampant crime, the measure has nevertheless triggered much criticism. Yet, mayor Palacios signed an agreement with the community’s shooting club, giving residents special discounts.
Purportedly aiming to provide more security to residents of La Reina, mayor José Manuel Palacios has signed a special agreement with the local shooting club. Any citizen who has a legal weapon will receive a discount for shooting classes. According to the mayor, the training should enable citizens to defend themselves against criminals, as the community is battling daily crime.
The arrangement with the shooting club includes a 30% discount for all residents and 10 free classes for women. Those who want to participate only need a clean criminal record, a neighborhood ID card, and a registered gun. In every class, residents will receive specialized assistance, protective gear, and 175 shots.
Palacios defended the measure by saying that “if they decided, as a family, to have a firearm at home, they must know how to use it responsibly.”
10,500 registered firearms in La Reina
A survey conducted by La Reina showed that many residents already possess weapons. “More than a third of the community’s families own a firearm, there are 10,500 guns registered so far, hence, among the procedures we had to undertake, there was a survey to get to know whether they know how to use weapons or not. That’s why we approached the shooting club today, with the idea of using its infrastructure to serve our citizens, providing them and their families with more security,” the mayor explained.
“We wish no one in the community should have to be armed; however, that is a reality nowadays. One in three households owns a weapon, and according to the survey we conducted, more than the 90% of residents don’t know how to use them. Therefore, it represents a risk for those families,” Palacios added.
The measure triggered a wave of criticism. Interior minister Andrés Chadwick said “the Investigations Police and Carabineros de Chile are the ones in charge of dealing with guns, it’s their duty as police organizations. They are the ones who own the legitimate use of guns, as they have the professional preparation to use them.
“We expect the municipalities to allocate more resources to supply Carabineros instead of arming the community.”
Felipe Alessandri, mayor of Downtown Santiago, also criticized Palacios, saying “I think arming the community isn’t the solution. We have to work along with the police and with the community. The municipalities are the ones responsible in matters of security.”
Even the director of non-governmental organization Secure Citizen Foundation, David Rozowski, chimed in: “This is a non-serious measure, as it would just increase the amount of fire guns in the community, representing a risk factor for possible confrontations.”