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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
02TEGUCIGALPA3012
2002-10-31 20:55:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Tegucigalpa
Cable title:  

AMBITIOUS NEW GUN CONTROLS IN EFFECT--BUT WILL

Tags:   PARM  PGOV  KCRM  HO  ASEC 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TEGUCIGALPA 003012 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CEN, DS/ICI/ITA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2012
TAGS: PARM PGOV KCRM HO ASEC
SUBJECT: AMBITIOUS NEW GUN CONTROLS IN EFFECT--BUT WILL
THEY BE EFFECTIVE?

Classified By: Political Chief Francisco Palmieri;
Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d).



1. (U) SUMMARY: On October 12, a new Honduran gun control
law went into effect, requiring registration of all pistols,
revolvers, rifles and shotguns with the National Criminal
Investigation Division (DGIC) of the Ministry of Public
Security (MoPS). The new law requires registration by both
individuals and businesses. It also mandates that
registrants present both the firearm and samples of the
appropriate ammunition, so that ballistic fingerprints can be
recorded--although the GOH lacks the technological capability
to record or use such potential evidence. In exchange,
owners will receive registration documentation, including a
license to carry the weapon. The new law prohibits civilians
from owning or possessing automatic weapons such as AK-47s,
M-16s and Uzis. On October 17, the GOH announced a delay in
the implementation of the law until November. END SUMMARY.



--------------------------


NEW LAW IN EFFECT


--------------------------





2. (U) On October 12, the new Honduran Law for the Control
of Firearms, Munitions and Explosives went into effect,
requiring registration of all pistols, revolvers, rifles and
shotguns with the National Criminal Investigation Division
(DGIC) of the Ministry of Public Security (MoPS). The law
requires all gun owners, both individual and commercial, to
register their weapons. (NOTE: Due to the shortage of police
personnel in Honduras, there exists a plethora of private
security firms that arm their guards. Approximately 35,000
to 40,000 men work as security guards, with 20,000 working as
armed guards for registered and non-registered companies.
END NOTE.) Registration was to commence October 22, with
owners having six months to register their firearms.
Registration was to be done alphabetically--for example, in
October individuals whose last names begin with A through Ch
were to register, in November D through G, etc. However, on
October 17 the GOH announced that the registration would not
commence until November--presumably to allow the GOH
additional time to educate the public about the new
requirements. (NOTE: Interestingly, gun owners need not
provide specific proof of ownership during this initial
six-month period in order to register their gun. Thereafter,
owners must have specific information such as the date the
firearm is acquired, the place of purchase and from whom the
firearm is purchased. END NOTE.)



3. (U) The law requires gun owners to appear in person at
the DGIC offices in Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula, since the
lack of government resources makes it impossible for
registration to take place in other locations. Individuals

must pay a $30 registration fee for each firearm registered,
and may register up to five firearms. Should an owner lose
his permit, there is a $12 fee to replace it. Additionally,
residents of Tegucigalpa must pay a $12 tax to the city and
present proof of payment at the time of registration with the
DGIC.



4. (U) In addition to the requisite fees, applicants must
present their national identification card (along with a
photocopy for the DGIC to retain), two (according to some
accounts four) recent photographs of themselves and
documentation that they own the firearms. Moreover, the law
requires that gun owners bring the gun itself, along with
three (3) rounds of ammunition. This requirement is designed
to enable the GOH to do ballistic "fingerprinting," though
reportedly the GOH lacks the technology to actually develop
and utilize ballistic fingerprinting evidence.



5. (U) Registration for businesses that own firearms differs
somewhat from individual registration. Businesses provide a
variety of information, including the name and type of the
business, type of legal entity (e.g., corporation), chamber
of commerce registration number, proof of municipal business
registration, tax identification number, name of its legal
representative, the number and type of arms to be registered
and a list of people who will be carrying the arms. As in
the case of individual registration, businesses must present
three (3) rounds of ammunition for each firearm, in order to
allow for ballistic fingerprinting. All registrants (both
individual and commercial) receive documentation that their
firearms are properly registered, as well as licenses to
carry the weapons. (NOTE: The RSO points out that the GOH
track record for attempting to register security companies is
poor. Over a year ago, the previous Minister of Public
Security (Gautauma Fonseca) mandated that security companies
register. A number of firms complied with the onerous and
detailed requirements, including Post's contractor InterCon.
To date, not one security firm has received a license from
the MoPS. END NOTE.)



6. (U) Honduras' new Law for the Control of Firearms,
Munitions and Explosives prohibits civilians from owning or
possessing automatic weapons such as AK-47s, M-16s and Uzis.
Persons carrying any firearm without the appropriate
registration and permit are subject to fines.



--------------------------


EFFECTIVE NEW LAW?


--------------------------





7. (U) Honduras is still suffering from serious problems
with crime, despite President Maduro's so-called Zero
Tolerance campaign that he implemented shortly after his
inauguration in January 2002. The Maduro Administration has
consistently voiced its concern about the proliferation of
weapons in Honduras, and despite deploying the Honduran Armed
Forces to assist the police, crime remains a significant
issue. Honduras has the third highest homicide rate in Latin
America--trailing only Colombia and El Salvador. Gang
violence continues to be a grave problem in the larger
cities, as are both arms smuggling and drug trafficking.



8. (U) Until passage of this law, Honduras had no effective
arms control or regulation of firearms. Honduras is known
for having a significant number of firearms in the hands of
its civilian population. Moreover, according to the RSO,
approximately 80% of the firearms in Honduras are illegally
obtained. La Armeria (an entity connected to the Honduran
Armed Forces) is the sole legal distributor/seller of
firearms in Honduras.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





9. (C) The passage of this law underscores the Maduro
Administration's commitment to tackle the firearms dilemma
that exists in Honduras. At this stage, it is unclear as to
whether or not Honduras' new gun control law will be
effective. Some sources charge that while the new law is
intended to appear consistent with the GOH's anti-crime
goals, the real motivation is to generate sorely-needed
revenue (with some municipalities hopping on the bandwagon).
The cost will be great for security companies with thousands
of weapons, and one of the hardest hit will be the U.S.-based
InterCon. Moreover, the ability of the police to safeguard
gun owners' names, addresses and weapons information is
questionable at best, thereby raising some additional
security concerns. To a large extent, the success of the new
law will depend not only upon efficient administration of the
system for registering guns and issuing permits, but also on
the ability to prosecute offenders who violate the law. The
current inability of authorities to fairly and evenhandedly
prosecute common criminals raises questions about the GOH's
ability to guarantee the proper enforcement and
implementation of this new gun law.



10. (C) An RSO source reports that one cause for the delay
in the implementation of the new law is that the DGIC wants
to receive its portion of related fees in cash. Reportedly,
the relevant parties are unable to agree how to handle the
municipality's share of the fees. Moreover, to date Honduras
does not have the equipment, technical expertise or
procedures required to actually do the ballistic
fingerprinting. There are unconfirmed allegations that a
company named ATESA (with connections to Maduro's inner
circle) may be seeking to provide the GOH with the necessary
equipment to do ballistic fingerprinting.
PALMER