What is the difference between federal gun laws and Puerto Rico’s gun laws?
In these gun laws pages, we refer to both “federal gun laws” and “Puerto Rico’s gun laws.” The major difference between the two has to do with who makes the law, who prosecutes someone who violates the law, and what the penalty is for breaking the law.
One reason why it is important for you to know that there are these two sets of gun laws is so that you can understand all of the possible ways that the abuser might be breaking the law, and you can better protect yourself. Throughout this section, we will be referring mostly to Puerto Rico’s laws. Be sure to also read our Federal Gun Laws pages to see if any federal laws apply to your situation as well. You will need to read both Puerto Rico’s law and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating.
If you are calling the police because you believe the abuser has violated a gun law, you do not necessarily need to be able to tell the police which law was violated (Puerto Rico’s versus federal) but local police cannot arrest someone for violating federal law, only for violating local laws. Only federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”), can arrest someone for violating federal laws. If the local police believe that Puerto Rico’s laws are being violated, they could arrest the abuser and hand the case over to the local prosecutor. If the local police believe a federal law is being violated, hopefully, the police department will notify the ATF or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office in your territory (which is the federal prosecutor). For information on how you can contact ATF directly to report the violation of federal gun laws, go to Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun? If the abuser is breaking both Puerto Rico’s and federal laws, s/he might be prosecuted in both local and federal court.
What is the definition of a felony?
Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to gun laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun. A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor. In Puerto Rico, a felony is any crime that is punishable by:
- imprisonment for more than six months;
- a fine of more than $5,000; or
- community service or home confinement for more than six months.1
However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison, the fine imposed, or the time spent doing community service or in home confinement since sentences are often reduced or pled down. If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the courthouse and search the conviction records.
1 33 L.P.R.A. § 5022
I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?
Under Puerto Rico law, a person cannot have or buy a gun unless s/he has a weapons license. A person cannot get a license, and therefore, cannot have or buy a gun, if s/he:
- has been convicted of or has charges pending for:
- a felony or attempted felony;
- a violent misdemeanor;
- a domestic violence-related offense;
- abusing a minor; or
- violating gun laws;
- has a mental illness that would disqualify him/her from owning a gun;1
- is under 21 years of age;
- is habitually intoxicated;
- is addicted to drugs;
- has been declared mentally incompetent by a court;
- has been dishonorably discharged from the military or a law enforcement agency of Puerto Rico;
- has belonged to a violent group or a group that wants to overthrow the government;
- is currently the subject of, or in the last 12 months has been the subject of, a protection order that says s/he cannot harass, stalk, threaten, or be near an intimate partner, a partner’s family member, or any other person;
- is not a United States citizen or legal permanent resident of ; or
- is banned by the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 from receiving, transporting, or sending firearms or ammunition.2
Also, federal laws, which apply to all states and territories, may restrict an abuser’s right to have a gun. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.
1 25 L.P.R.A. § 462h
2 25 L.P.R.A. § 462a