As a New York Second Amendment lawyer I get asked all kinds of questions everyday about where and when people may carry their lawfully possessed firearm. Most of these questions pertain to New York and Federal Law. However, this week I was contacted with an interesting question. Can a New Yorker who has a license to possess a firearm take his lawfully owned handgun on vacation with him in Puerto Rico. After doing the research I learned that surprisingly, the answer was, yes.
Puerto Rico had some of the most restrictive gun laws in the United States prior to 2015. In June 2015, a local Court ruled that Puerto Rico’s restrictive gun laws were unconstitutional. For a brief time, Puerto Rico had no enforceable gun laws. That decision was soon overturned and local and Federal Judges later found that the Puerto Rico’s gun laws were constitutional. However, in recent years Puerto Rico had become increasingly dangerous especially after the hurricane wreaked havoc on the territory’s infrastructure.
In 2016, Puerto Rico had one of the lowest rates of gun ownership in the U.S. with only 225,000 firearms owned. A rate of just 6.6 guns per 100 people. At the same time, Puerto Rico had a murder rate of almost 4 times the national average and almost twice the murder rate in Louisiana which had the highest murder rate of any State.
Finally, on December 11, 2019, Puerto Rico’s Governor, Wanda Vázquez Garced signed a new gun law into effect, Act No. 168. Beginning in December 2019, Puerto Rico went from a May issue system to a Shall issue system in line with most States. The sole difference is a minimum age of 21 years old. The permitting system went from a bureaucratic nightmare costing upwards of $1500 with no guaranty of obtaining a permit to a streamlined system costing $200 for a 5 year permit and $100 for a renewal with a guarantee that qualified people will obtain a license. As of now, the government has 45 days to issue the permit which will be reduced to 30 days after 1 year. The permit gives the holder to carry a concealed firearm for self defense purposes.
Most surprisingly, the new law includes one of the most complete reciprocity laws in the Country with Puerto Rico accepting any all firearms permits from all states. So Puerto Rico has universal reciprocity with all 50 states whether or not your state will accept Puerto Rico’s permit. This means that vacationers, even those living in gun restrictive states such as New York and New Jersey may bring their lawfully owned firearm on vacation with them in Puerto Rico. As long as they have a valid CCW (Concealed Carry License) from any state. Travellers should always be sure to check and comply with the latest airline and TSA regulations before bringing their firearm to the airport. Also, those travelling though a New York airport should be especially cautious before bringing a gun to a New York airport such as LaGuardia or JFK as numerous gun arrests occur at those airports.
Tilem & Associates is New York’s premier Gun Rights and Second Amendment law firm.