Gun Violence in Puerto Rico


(Image via AP News)

Jelani Dupon, Writer

On Monday, October 14th in a San Juan housing project in the neighborhood of Rio Piedra, there was a mass shooting that left six people dead and followed a shooting a day earlier in Guaynabo that killed two people. This shooting is a wake-up call for Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazques Garced as she called a state of urgency, stating “ As governor, I will continue my commitment and it is my best interest to understand the security measures put in place and how they are being implemented. At this meeting, I will ask for those measures to be reviewed.”

This is still an ongoing investigation, but every official in Puerto Rico knows that the security and safety need to be more of a priority, as the public security chief said that “We’re going to see more patrols while this case is clarified… there will be security and control.” He also said that in a meeting with Wanda Vasques Garced, they talked about increased land and air patrol, and reinforcing social programs. 

Gun violence isn’t anything new to Puerto Rico, having one of the highest murder rates in the country, and most of it is because of gang violence. It’s been like this for years, in the early 2000s it ranked in the top 10 for murder rates per capita. In one study, the violence rate was off the charts, the moderate crime level was 35.38 and Puerto Rico got an average scale of 64.62, almost double the general safety levels. With all the gun violence in Puerto Rico, we have to look at the deep roots of all of the anger and why it’s happening at such a high rate. A reoccurring cause of these crimes is drugs, and according to The Recovery Village, an estimated 60,000 people on the island regularly use drugs such as heroin, fentanyl, and other drugs you inject. Puerto Rico also has one of the highest HIV/ AIDS population amongst the U.S states, and 40% of those cases of the disease are because of shared needles, not a sexual transmission. This will continue to be a trend until it is stopped, as seen in history, what the people of an area grow around is what they will be, and the youth in Puerto Rico are being set up to do the exact things that the island is being destroyed because of. 

Another big contribution is gang violence, The New York Times reported that “Puerto Rico’s murder rate is four times that of mainland United States” and in the first two weeks of 2019, 30 people died. Gang violence has a big place with many of these murders, officials suspect that the gang population is so high because of the drug abuse and Puerto Rico’s low financial status. This is evidence that these two hot topics play off of each other, and if the governor wants the gun violence and mass shootings to stop they have to limit the drug obsessions and the rising gang population.