Pro-gun states not to blame for violence in US territories

Pro-gun states not to blame for violence in US territories
zarelho / Pixabay

The United States isn’t just the 50 states. It also includes a number of territories, such as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands. Many of these territories are vehemently anti-gun. They’ve got strict gun control measures.

Unsurprisingly, many of them also have a lot of violent crime.

Once again, though, anti-Second Amendment groups are trying to blame states that haven’t consumed the gun control Kool-Aid for the problems in these territories.

Chicago and Illinois have relatively strict gun laws; there are no licensed gun retailers within city limits. Yet rates of gun violence remain high. The gun lobby consistently uses this contradiction to argue that restrictive gun purchasing and ownership laws don’t work. That argument starts to fall apart when you recognize that 60% of guns used in crimes in Chicago are trafficked from other states, particularly neighboring Indiana, which requires no permits, registration, or background checks for purchases.

new report from the gun violence prevention organization Giffords shows this same dynamic is currently at play in U.S. territories, particularly Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). Those territories themselves have relatively strict gun laws, but their gun death rates are astronomical, higher than any mainland state. The report aims to highlight the problem of guns making their way from states with lax gun control to territories, particularly because violent crime rates in U.S. territories get much less attention compared to the states. Giffords hopes to raise awareness among legislators about the need to tighten regulations in origin states, and to improve monitoring and community intervention in the territories.

Gun death rates on these islands are staggering. In 2018, the gun homicide rate in Puerto Rico was 19 per 100,000, a rate four times higher than the national average, and almost double that of the highest state rates, in Mississippi and Louisiana. In 2020, the rate of gun homicides in USVI was 50 per 100,000, more than 8.5 times that of the national average.

Want to know what’s missing in this story? Any mention of how the guns are getting there, that’s what’s missing.

See, Puerto Rico and the USVI are islands. There’s no simple matter of just buying a bunch of guns and driving them across state lines. They’re in the middle of the ocean. I mean, you could try to drive there, but you’d better have one hell of a snorkel.

And I wouldn’t recommend trying to do so in a Tesla.

That means they have to come in via some other manner, such as via plane or boat. Airlines control the transportation of firearms currently. It’s not a simple matter to fly with a firearm or two, much less enough guns to make it profitable to traffic guns to Puerto Rico that way.

Sure, they could use a private plane, but that’s a 1,150+ mile flight. That’s pushing it for anything like a Cessna, and anything that could easily make the trip is expensive enough the owner isn’t going to traffic guns with it.

Which means boats, which also aren’t cheap.

It seems that whoever is trafficking guns into Puerto Rico and USVI is doing so in a way that makes it profitable to do so. It’s likely ancillary cargo with drugs or something else illicit.

But Giffords doesn’t ask the question. They don’t want to know the answer. They don’t want to be shown that even an island–a landmass that has every advantage you could ask to prevent gun trafficking–can’t keep guns out.

They want to use this to push other states to adopt gun control, but they fail to address the fact that so long as demand for guns still exists, someone will provide the supply.

This means if you made every state adopt New York City’s gun control laws, someone would still be running guns to the territories.

But do go on about how things like poverty and corruption are irrelevant, but gun laws in Indiana are.