A National Police trophy photo, posted on their Twitter feed after five people were shot to death in less than three days, four of them undoubtedly gangland hits and the other one perhaps that but maybe something else. Gang shootings wax and wane with shifting drug smuggling routes, but on the margins domestic violence shootings are largely a function of the number of guns in households, most of which were not acquired for the purpose of committing crimes but for “protection.”
Proposed Law 716 — passed in committee, not available for the general public to read
by Eric Jackson
So what IS this Proyecto de Ley 716? Panamanian law already provides that if you kill someone while legitimately defending yourself — NOT ‘I was robbing his store and the guy pulled a gun on me’ — it is justifiable homicide. So what do the PRD and Cambio Democratico members of the National Assembly’s Government Committee mean when they propose that a person would be exonerated?
It’s hard to say specifically what, because the proposal was brought up, debated, amended and passed in committee on January 31 without having been previously published and without having been published since. What kind of committee hearing was THAT? Those of us who have been the victims of firearms violence in our homes or otherwise were not invited. Isaac Brawerman, who imports things from Israel and represents himself as the head of a gun enthusiast group, was.
So we get partial second-hand accounts of what the proposal is. According to President Varela’s brother, Panameñista legislator Popi Varela, the proposal would repeal Decree 422, last year’s version on the nation’s basic gun regulations. Under that decree, to get a permit for a firearm, one must:
1. show that she or he is a citizen or legal resident
2. pass a criminal background check
3. be examined by a psychiatrist
4. be fingerprinted
5. give a urine sample for a drug screen
6. give a blood sample, which will go into a DNA bank
7. have biometric measurements taken for police files
8. go to a firing range and pass a gun proficiency / gun safety test
9. have the police fire several rounds and collect the bullets for their ballistics lab collection
So, get rid of those regulations and you can go to a gun store and tell the owner that you’re a wanted hit man and ex-convict from Mexico, you need a gun for this one job and you’ll be leaving the country right afterward — and you get the weapon over the counter right then and there?
You might see how some of these legislators, who have been cited by the Comptroller General for stealing millions, might like THAT idea.
By other versions the proposed law would also end the moratorium, in place by a series of decrees for about eight years now, prohibiting the importation of firearms except for the police.
But it’s hard to know, because the legislature won’t post the proposal on its website.
It is a difficult and lengthy process to legally acquire a gun permit and with that the weapon you might want to buy. For Panamanian citizens it takes months to years. The bottom line interest is that the police have something to say about it and generally like delays because more guns in circulation increases the deadly risks of their occupation.