Delegates from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Peru attended the first Symposium “Turning the tide” – Building an Effective Response to Latin American Anti-hunting and Anti-firearm Legislation, sponsored by the World Forum for Shooting Activities (WFSA) and represented by its former President Ted Rowe. Safari Club International was represented by Bill McGrath, Legal Counsel from the SCI Office in Washington, D.C. The delegates agree to create the Latin American Coalition for Legal Firearms(CALL for its acronym in Spanish). This organization is created as a continental platform in pursuit of the defense of the right of the people to own and use firearms responsibly.
CALL is established with these main objectives:
To promote education and training in the safe and responsible use of firearms
To promote sport shooting activities
To promote sport hunting and conservation
To promote the historic heritage of firearms
To promote the universal right to self defense
To promote building capacity for solid and representative organizations in the region
To maintain constant and fluid communication among the participant organizations in relation to changes in regulations and legislation that may affect the objectives of this organization
To participate in international forums in areas related to our activity
To maintain contact with similar international organizations
To seek the self-sustainability of the integrity of the organization in each of the countries of the region.
The board of the Coalition will be comprised of one representative of each from the participant countries, elected among the affiliated organizations from each country. This board will elect an Executive Secretary who will act on their mandate. This organization will be open to any membership organization, federation, club or association created according to the laws of their countries that shares the mission and objectives formulated in its act of incorporation.
The initial board of directors was comprised of Rodrigo Lopez Landauro (Peruvian Legal Firearms Owners Assn.), Manuel Perez Gomez (Mexico Armado), Cristian Gamboa Beltramin (National Assn. for the Responsible Possession of Firearms, Chile), and Guillermo Muttoni (Forum for Argentina Free of Illegal Guns); and temporarily Jairo Paes de Lira (Brasilian Coalition for Legitimate Defense). The board elected J.Thomas Saldias as Executive Secretary. He will serve as coordinator of the board activities and facilitator among the different participant groups and associations.
The delegates signed a “Declaration of Lima” committing themselves to promote the defense of the right of the people to own and use legal firearms. This declaration was also signed by Ted Rowe (WFSA) and Bill McGrath (SCI).
The Big Challenge
The meeting of various representatives in Lima allowed us to have an overview of the participating countries. Each of their representatives outlined the legislative situation and the restrictions determined by each of the states. The main conclusion is that governments have avoided directly prohibiting weapons in civilian hands, and have resorted to increasing requirements, raising rates of procedures, making increasingly complex and expensive procedures that should be simple and available to all citizens. All these barriers and disguised taxes have shaped a covert policy of disarmament in all countries of the region. Moreover, according to the information presented in Lima, we could be sure that countries in the region have been systematically applying the “Disarmament Handbook” published by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). As a result, almost all countries in the region are limiting the number of firearms per person, others talk about owners who hold a kind of loan for the guns, but these “loans” can be withdrawn at any time, and all tend to require medical certificates. Further, and without exception, all of these countries constantly criminalize the rightful owners and users of firearms in the media, accusing them of providing weapons to criminals and endangering the lives of their families by having firearms in their homes.
What organizations are behind the disarmament?
Over the years several international foundations like the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller, Compton, Ploughshares, John & Catherine McArthur, Samuel Rubin Foundation, Open Society (George Soros), and others have been involved in the financing of organizations such as Oxfam, Arms Control (a group of over 100 organizations with offices in 120 countries), Small Arms Survey (Switzerland), the Latin American Parliament (Parliamentary Forum on Small Arms), International Action Network on Small Arms (Sweden) or CLAVE (Latin American Coalition for the Prevention of Gun Violence), even some governments such as the governments of Belgium, UK, Australia, Norway and Sweden have been very proactive in promoting coercive measures in our region.
And what has been our response?
Aside from the isolated reaction in each of our countries, where we went as volunteer firefighters to extinguish fires once they have started, we had never maintained a policy of prevention or permanent lobbying. Even among ourselves, there is the entrenched position that both the defense of the right to self-defense, the preservation of historical weapons, the use and carry of firearms and even sport hunting should be kept ‘low profile.’ Thus, throughout the years, governments have issued progressive measures that have gradually weakened our position, while gradually restricting our rights, until (as recently happened in Peru) they publish measures to confiscate the legal property of firearm owners. When these assaults on the right to firearms ownership are recognized, the protests start but unfortunately it’s too little too late and there’s not much that can be done. This forces us to have to hire law firms to represent us in courts to reverse these confiscatory measures. Recently in Peru, the coalition scored a breakthrough, with an injunction, which managed to delay for five years the confiscation of 9mmPB guns from civilian hands, allowing us more time to continue the legal defense.
These are unlike the anti-gun and anti-hunting “activists,” who are always well organized and well funded, who develop and stage public protests and carry their message where they know they will have an eager audience. These groups are not above resorting to civil unrest to promote their cause, and all this occurs while we keep a “low profile.”
Because we pride ourselves on being respectful of the law, and typically have an audience that spans a broader cultural demographic, our call to like-minded individuals is fragmented. The anonymity provided by the Internet allows poseurs to espouse their willingness to defend these rights with their lives, as long as that fight is virtual and especially anonymous.
It is in this context, complex and unorthodox, that different initiatives are emerging in each of our countries where government harassment has taken confiscatory measures. In Uruguay, the Uruguayan Shooting Club leads the fight in that sister nation; in Argentina the Forum for an Argentina Free of Illegal Guns congregates various representative organizations and have obtained results that are progressively cementing its leadership; in Mexico emerges coalition ADA -10 establishing the defense of Constitutional Article 10 on the right of Mexicans to carry firearms for legitimate purposes; in Chile , the National Assn. for the Responsible Possession of Firearms (ANTRA) keeps an active surveillance and remains proactive in defending the rights of southern brethren; and in Peru the Coalition for Free Peru of Illegal Guns, an organization comprised of more than 20 associations and clubs representing our interest, is taking the fight to the government of the day with appropriate legal, peaceful protests and finally legislative proposals.
However, all these organizations and initiatives lack a necessary essential element to achieve their ultimate goal. Despite the huge resources generated by our purchases of the firearms, ammunition and equipment from global manufacturers, WE DO NOT RECEIVE ANY FUNDING OR SUPPORT OF ANY KIND to carry on this fight. In Peru, for example, the sale of firearms to civilians is virtually paralyzed. Since the month of July the agency that controls firearms licensing is not issuing new or renewals for firearm licenses, gun shops have virtually closed their doors and sales have been minimized. In most cases, major importers keep their business with the sale of ammunition, shotgun cartridges specifically, specially imported from Spain and the US.
As the Latin American Coalition for Legal Firearms (CALL), we face two serious challenges: (1) unifying the different groups involved in this fight in the various countries of Latin America, (2) sharing information, human resources and intelligence to face a common enemy which works against the common interest and welfare of honest citizens, for simply owning firearms.
To do this we need the support of the international firearms, ammunition and equipment industry. It is to our mutual benefit to keep these markets open and promote the responsible use of firearms, for now and in the future.
We appeal to the international firearms industry for their help and support so we can make our voices heard.
We will be in force at the next SHOT Show and hope to meet with the many firearms manufacturers and major distributors and hope the sponsorship of WFSA and SCI will assure them of the seriousness of our cause.
Like the defenders of the Alamo, we have fought for a long time alone, but the new realities lead us to say publicly, that without support from global industry of firearms, ammunition and equipment, our struggle will be eventually surpassed by the organizational, lobbying and financial capabilities of those who seek to leave us utterly and literally defenseless.
J.Thomas Saldias, MSc. Is the SCI Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean Region and Executive Secretary of the Latin American Coalition for Legal Firearms (CALL).