Rising Gun Violence Ignites Debate on Law Reform

SANTIAGO – Recent shootings in the Metropolitan Region have triggered a debate on arms regulations. It’s still multipartisan consensus that gun laws should restrict access. While the Interior Minister has suggested a change is necessary, he hesitates to get it going.

After a major shootout in Santiago’s Maipú district on Dec. 22, Interior Minister Rodrigo Delgado said the gun law should be reformed. The law was implemented in 1977.

Delgado, however, halted a reform bill that was under discussion in the Senate, and Congress was working on a separate bill to restrict civilians’ access to guns.

What Does the Law Say?

The gun law establishes the Defense Ministry’s national mobilization department (DGMN) as regulator of guns, explosives and similar elements, including items produced for war, chemicals, and crowd control weapons.

Prospective gun owners must provide proof they will use firearms solely for self-defense or sports. The DGMN will then run a background and psychological check. Any gun bought must be registered with the entity.

Possession of automatic and semi-automatic arms, machine and submachine guns, and homemade weapons is always illegal, as is ownership of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Only agents that enforce the state’s monopoly on violence are exempt.

Joining shooting clubs provides a loophole, however, to bypass some regulations, although such clubs must also maintain strict standards on gun ownership.

Last year authorities confiscated over 5,600 illegal weapons, twice as many as in 2019. Most arms were found during raids of gang strongholds. At an event to destroy these arms, Delgado said “I’ve requested that this number [of confiscated weapons] continues rising, so we can continue removing guns from the streets.”

Two Bills

Lawmakers are working on one bill that would ramp up the DGMN’s weapon tracing capabilities.

But senator Felipe Harboe, a member of the security committee, told Radio Biobío, “the government asked us to not read the bill in the committee until it could clear up some [points]. It is very weird for the president to request that the senate passes his laws while his cabinet asks the bill to be kept on hold.”

Congressman Marcelo Díaz presented another project in the lower house to outlaw gun possession entirely, except for target practice.

Read more

Deadly Shooting Prompts Government Action

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