The creation of a weapons unit in the U.S. Attorney´s Office for the District of Puerto Rico is a wise decision to curb the impact of violent crimes that have caused the loss of so many lives on the island.
We hope that this new strategic approach will become a strong tool in the fight against trafficking that reaps huge profits from the easy access to guns and ammunition.
The illegal entry of firearms –that are carried through an official port of entry (air or sea), in passengers luggage or by mail, among other schemes detected by authorities- nurtures the lucrative drugs market that, according to the U.S. Attorney´s Office for Puerto Rico, is responsible for the 95 percent of the annual murders in Puerto Rico. Up until last weekend, the Police recorded 68 homicides.
Illegal weapons remain at the core of organized crime, as well as other illegal activities. They also appear in deaths in fights, robberies and shootings in broad daylight on busy streets. Gangs that pay up to $9,000 for assault rifles and automatic weapons feel empowered to defy law enforcement agents.
They lead people to feel fear and alarm, to an unsafe country. The new Weapons Unit of the U.S. Attorney´s Office is tasked with a swift and proper way out of this huge challenge that claims so many lives.
To start with, it seems wise to have created a unit separated from the Criminal Division that is in charge of prosecuting other crimes. This way, federal agents will be able to set strategies in line with the peculiarities of trafficking on the island.
Although, currently they don´t know the number of illegal weapons on the island or the profits that gun traffic generates, authorities estimate that the volume of gun trafficking is similar to that of drug trafficking.
In this scenario, the mission of the new unit seems complex. We hope that gathering information will lead to have a more accurate estimate on illegal guns in Puerto Rico, a tool that will lead to identify people and groups involved in gun trafficking, that is dehumanizing. To achieve this, the new unit should count on the collaboration of local authorities as well as citizens.
Based on firearms trace data, authorities estimate that most guns come from Texas, Georgia and Florida. Between 80 and 90 percent of the firearms that arrive from Florida come from the area of Orlando. It is necessary to coordinate efforts with authorities in those states to detect illegal gun trafficking schemes and identify people involved in these activities.
Firearms by mail represent another major challenge. Efforts to strengthen the Firearms by Mail program, under the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General, is also a wise decision and so is allocating more resources to postal offices in Orlando and Puerto Rico to detect suspicious packages.
Gun trafficking is a big and profitable business that requires an interagency strategy. Improving communication and maximizing the efficiency of resources can help to identify and prosecute unscrupulous merchants who get rich through bloodshed.