AQUI LA DEMANDA POR VIOLACION DE DERECHOS SOMETIDA EN EL TRIBUNAL FEDERAL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO
DANNY WILLIAMS; RUBEN
PUERTO RICO SUPERIOR COURT;
COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO
and PUERTO RICO DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE through the PUERTO RICO
SECRETARY OF JUSTICE,
GUILLERMO SOMOZA COLOMBANI;
PUERTO RICO POLICE DEPARTMENT
through EMILIO DIAZ COLON,
Civil Action No.
COMPLAINT FOR DEPRIVATION OF
CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER COLOR OF LAW
COME NOW, Plaintiffs Danny Williams and Ruben González Lora, by and through their
undersigned attorney Osvaldo Sandoval, and complain as follows:
1. This action for deprivation of civil rights concerns Puerto Rico’s issuance of
“Permit to Carry” handgun licenses pursuant to The Puerto Rico Weapons Act, Law #404 of
September 11, 2000, as amended. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief and attorney’s
fees and costs.
2. It is a felony to possess a handgun without a Permit to Carry issued pursuant to
the Puerto Rico Weapons Act, Article 5.04- Carrying and Use of Firearms without a License. A
private citizen who does not hold a Permit to Carry may possess a handgun only if he obtains a
license to posses and/or a shooting permit under Article 2.02 and/or 3.04 of the Puerto Rico
3. In order to obtain a Permit to Carry, a private citizen must comply with Article
2.05 of the Puerto Rico’s Weapons Act which imposes an undue burden on them, in clear
violation of their Second Amendment rights.
4. In order to obtain a Permit to Carry in compliance with the aforementioned
statute, a private citizen must first apply to the Police Department for a license under article 2.02,
which imposes an undue burden on them in clear violation of their Second Amendment rights.
5. After the police official has approved or disapproved the application, a private
citizen must then obtain the approval of an appropriate Superior Court judge. See Article 2.05 of
The PR Weapons Act.
6. The Superior Court judge conducts an independent review to determine whether
the various statutory requirements have been met. These requirements are: (1) “fears for his/her
safety;” (2) the opinion of 3 reputation witnesses on the petitioners’ suitability to carry a weapon;
and (3) “a receipt of an Internal Revenue voucher for the amount of two hundred and fifty
($250.00) dollars drawn to the order of the Superintendent” among others. See Article 2.05 of
the PR Weapons Act. The Superior Court judge has uncontrolled subjective discretion to deny a
7. A Superior Court judge deciding an application for a Permit to Carry acts as an
“issuing authority” performing “functions which [a]re clearly non-judicial in nature.” Siccardi v.
State, 59 N.J. 545, 553, 284 A.2d 533, 538 (1971); see also In re Preis, 118 N.J. 564, 569, 573
A.2d 148, 151 (1990) (“the Legislature has reposed what is essentially an executive function in
the judicial branch”).
8. The Handgun Permit Laws are facially invalid under the Second and Fourteenth
Amendments to the Constitution of the United States in and to the extent that, they: (a) requires
the citizen to obtain first a license to posses arms and/or shooting permit; (b) requires citizens to
bring reputation witnesses to attest to their suitability in order to exercise a constitutional right;
(c) file with his/her application for a permit to carry weapons, a receipt for an Internal Revenue
voucher for the amount of two hundred and fifty ($250.00) dollars drawn to the order of the
Superintendent and said voucher must have been previously presented to the Superintendent;(d)
vest state officials with uncontrolled discretion to deny Permits to Carry; (e) require citizens to
show that he/she fears for his/her safety; and (f) a certificate issued by an authorized official of a
gun club in Puerto Rico, to the effect that the petitioner has passed a course in the correct use and
handling of firearms.
9. Plaintiff Danny Williams is an active duty soldier with the US Coast Guard, born
and raised in the state of Florida, who risks his life on a daily basis for the service of our country
and our protection.
10. Plaintiff Ruben Gonzalez Lora is a US citizen born and raised in Puerto Rico and
a law student in the Interamerican University.
11. Defendant the San Juan Superior Court is sued in its official capacity, responsible
for approving and issuing Permits to Carry pursuant to Art. 2.05 of the Puerto Rico Weapons Act
and related regulations.
12. Defendant Puerto Rico Police Department is sued in its official capacity,
responsible for processing applications for weapons possession and shooting license pursuant to
Art. 2.02 of the Puerto Rico Weapons Act. The Puerto Rico Police Department is responsible for
executing and administering the laws and policies at issue in this lawsuit. The two hundred fifty
($250.00) dollars voucher is received by the Police Department.
13. Defendant Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is sued through the Secretary of Justice
since it is the constitutionality of one of its laws, The Puerto Rico Weapons Act that is being
challenge for infringing the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.
14. As this Complaint relates to the conduct of the Puerto Rico’s Superior Courts and
its Judges assigned to weapons carry permit licensing, each acted and acts as a licensing officer
in a non-judicial capacity. This action concerns the constitutionality of the Handgun Permit
Laws, rather than the correctness of these Defendants’ respective state-law determinations.
15. Defendant Puerto Rico Justice Department, through its Secretary, Guillermo
Somoza Colombani, is sued in his official capacity as the Attorney General of the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, responsible for executing and administering the laws and
policies at issue in this lawsuit and the legal representation of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
16. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§1331, 1343,
2201, 2202 and 42 U.S.C. §1983.
17. This Court has personal jurisdiction over each of the Defendants because, inter
alia, they acted under color of Puerto Rico state law and/or within the geographic confines of the
Puerto Rico Commonwealth.
18. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391.
PLAINTIFF DANNY WILLIAMS
19. On October 11, 2011, he requested a permit to carry weapons in the Puerto Rico
Superior Court, San Juan, room 1101, pursuant to the Second Amendment and Article 2.05 of
the Puerto Rico Weapons Act. Even though a hearing should be held only if the prosecutors’
office requests it, the Superior Court scheduled a hearing automatically with the filing of the
20. On October 17, 2011, the Court ordered the Justice Department, through the
Assistant District Attorneys to express their position regarding Plaintiff’s Williams’ petition
under the Second Amendment in 15 days.
21. The Puerto Rico Department of Justice never expressed their position regarding
the Second Amendment issue. On November 7, 2011, the Hon. Judge Gisela Alfonso Fernández
denied Mr. Williams’ petition stating that the petition was lacking the appropriate supporting
22. Although the resolution does not mention the documents that were required to
approve the aforementioned petition, the underlying issue is that the Court wanted Mr. Williams
to include his income tax returns and to bring 3 reputation witnesses to determine if he is
someone that could be trusted with a weapon.
PLAINTIFF RUBEN GONZALEZ LORA
23. On September 8, 2011, Mr. González applied for a permit to carry to the San Juan
Superior Court, room 1101, pursuant to the Puerto Rico Weapons Act and the Second
24. On September 12, 2011, the Court ordered the petitioner to file 3 sworn
statements from reputation witnesses and a sworn statement to the effect that he filed his state
taxes. He was also ordered to file a certificate from child support stating he had no debt.
25. Mr. González filed several motions alleging these requirements were
unconstitutional and unsupported by the requirements imposed by the PR Weapons Act.
Nonetheless, on November 28, 2011 the Hon. Judge Gisela Alfonso Fernández denied Mr.
26. The Second Amendment provides: “[a] well regulated Militia, being necessary to
the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
U.S. Const. Amndt. II. Further, the Second Amendment guarantees individuals a fundamental
right to carry operable handguns in non-sensitive public places for the purpose of self defense.
27. The Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the requirements of the Second
Amendment against the States and their units of local government. McDonald v. Chicago, 561
U.S. ___, 130 S. Ct. 3020, 3042 (Jun. 28, 2010).
28. The States retain the ability to regulate, under strict scrutiny, the manner of
carrying handguns within constitutional parameters; to prohibit the carrying of handguns in
specific, narrowly defined sensitive places; to prohibit the carrying of arms that are not within
the scope of Second Amendment protection; and, to disqualify specific, particularly dangerous
individuals from carrying handguns provided they have a felony conviction or are mentally ill.
29. The States may not completely ban the carrying of handguns for self defense,
deny individuals the right to carry handguns in non-sensitive places, deprive individuals of the
right to carry handguns in an arbitrary and capricious manner, or impose regulations on the
right to carry handguns that are inconsistent with the Second Amendment and do not meet
the strict scrutiny review.
FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
THE GOVERNMENT MAY NOT LICENSE A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT
30. The Puerto Rico Weapons Act unconstitutionality is clearly shown in with the
requirement that a law abiding citizen must apply for and obtain a “license” in order to be able to
possess a firearm. See Article 2.02, Puerto Rico’s Weapons Act.
31. To that effect, Article 2.02 states: “Article 2.02-Weapons license
(a) The Superintendent shall issue a weapons license to any petitioner who
meets the following requirements: …”
32. According to the Webster dictionary, a license is “a permission granted by
competent authority to engage in a business or occupation or in an activity otherwise unlawful.”
33. Is a citizen required to obtain a license to exercise his First Amendment? Is an
accused required to obtain a license to exercise his right to a jury trial under the Sixth
34. According to the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, “[t]o keep and bear arms
is a lawful act”. Hence, the “competent authority” otherwise known as the government, may not
require a law abiding citizen to solicit a “license” for keeping and bearing arms since it is a
Fundamental Right, not an “activity”.
35. Therefore, the concept of applying for a license is based on privilege and not as a
matter of right. This assertion is clearly shown in Articles 2.04 and 2.06 of the Puerto Rico
Weapons Act, which we will discuss further in the next cause of action.
SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION
THE GOVERNMENT MAY NOT IMPOSE PAYMENT UPON A CITIZEN FOR HIM
TO BE ABLE TO EXERCISE HIS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS
36. Imagine a news paper reporter in the state of New York having to pay the
government $250 to be able to report the news, or a person been charged a fee to publicly speak
his mind in Times Square. By imposing a fee, this is exactly what the Puerto Rico government,
through the Weapons Act, the Police Department and the Superior Courts are doing to certain
37. The aforementioned statute requires as a pre-requisite to a ‘permit to carry’, to
attain a license for possession of firearms. In order to obtain such license, a citizen must pay a
$100.00 voucher payable to the Puerto Rico Police; one sworn statement from 3 reputation
witnesses ($25.00); a sworn statement of compliance with Puerto Rico’s fiscal laws ($25.00);
and submit the complete application under oath, before a notary ($25.00). In other words, for the
average citizen to be able to obtain a license to possess firearms, the cost is approximately
$175.00. See Article 2.02 of the P.R. Weapons Act.
38. If the petitioner wants to be able to attend a shooting range and practice with his
weapons, he must then apply for a shooting permit which will cost an additional revenue voucher
of $25.00; a sworn application ($25.00); a stamp from a sport shooting federation ($25.00); and
the shooting range membership ($75.00), for a total of $150.00 plus the $175.00 of the
possession license, which total approximately $320.00. Further, the petitioner must also spend
over $500.00 to buy his weapon of choice.
39. Afterwards, the petitioner must pay a $250.00 voucher payable to the Police
Department; $65.00 for the filing fee of the petition to the Superior Court; $75.00 in 3 sworn
statements from reputation witnesses; and anywhere from $500.00 to $800.00 in attorney fees for
a total of $1,190.00. The approximate total expenses for an average citizen who wishes to
exercise his right to bear arms in Puerto Rico is $2,010.00.
This undisputed fact constitutes an undue burden against the average law abiding citizen.
THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION
THE PUERTO RICO WEAPONS ACT IS AMPLY DISCRIMINATORY AND FAVORS
THOSE WITH THE FACULTY TO APPROVE LICENSES
40. As the Court may see, in the preceding cause of action, we explained how the
P.R. Weapons Act imposes an undue burden on their citizens. Moreover, Articles 2.04 and 2.06
of the aforementioned local law gives special treatment and privilege to those who work for the
same government that our Constitution was written to protect against.
Article 2.04 states that “…[f]ormer governors, former legislators, former
superintendents, former Commonwealth and Federal judges, former
Commonwealth and Federal prosecuting attorneys, former minors’ advocates,
former mayors of Puerto Rico as well as former law enforcement officers,
provided they have retired honorably and are not prohibited by this Law to
possess firearms and who, in the case of former law enforcement officers,
have served in that capacity for not less than ten (10) years, may also carry
weapons…” Note that there is an expedited process to favor government
officials, among them Superior Court judges and police officers including the
Superintendent without payment or petition to the Superior Court. Article
2.06, “If interested in obtaining a weapons license or any of the permits
provided for in this Law, the following persons shall be exempt from payment
of the Internal Revenue vouchers and stamps required under articles 2.02, 2.05
and 3.04 respectively…
(2) The Government official listed under article 2.04 of this Law; …
(4) Former governors, former legislators, former superintendents, former
Commonwealth and Federal judges, former Commonwealth and Federal
prosecuting attorneys, former minors’ advocates and former mayors of Puerto
Rico provided they have retired honorably; and
(5) Former law enforcement officers provided they have retired honorably and
have served in that capacity for more than ten (10) years.”
41. As shown, the Puerto Rico Weapons Act discriminates against the average citizen
and favors and privileged government officials, creating a prejudice against law abiding citizens.
This fact crashes against the Second Amendment head on as the interpretative jurisprudence
indicates that the Right belongs to the people, not the government.
FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION
ARTICLES 2.02 AND 2.05 OF THE PUERTO RICO WEAPONS ACT VIOLATE THE
SECOND AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS BECAUSE THEY VEST
UNCONTROLLED DISCRETION IN THE HANDS OF STATE OFFICIALS
42. Article 2.02 of the Puerto Rico Weapons Act is facially invalid insofar it vests
Police Officers and the Superintendent of the Puerto Rico Police with uncontrolled, arbitrary and
subjective discretion to grant or deny approval of license applications. Further, Article 2.02 of
the Puerto Rico Weapons Act is facially invalid because it requires a citizen to obtain a license to
exercise a fundamental right.
43. Article 2.05 of the Puerto Rico Weapons Act is facially invalid since it vests the
Superior Court with uncontrolled discretion to issue or refuse to issue carry permits.
44. The invalidities of the abovementioned statutes and regulations, and Defendants’
application of same, infringe Plaintiffs’ Second and Fourteenth Amendments rights and damage
Plaintiffs, all in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983.
45. Plaintiffs’ injuries are irreparable because Plaintiffs are entitled to enjoy their
constitutional rights in fact.
FIFTH CAUSE OF ACTION
ARTICLE 2.02 AND 2.05 OF THE PUERTO RICO WEAPONS ACT VIOLATE
THE SECOND AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS BECAUSE THE EXERCISE OF
FUNDAMENTAL CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS CANNOT BE CONDITIONED ON
SHOW OF FEAR, THIRD PARTIES OPINIONS, PROVE OF CHILD SUPPORT
PAYMENT, PROVE OF STATE TAX PAYMENT AND/ OR PROVE OF PHYSICAL
ABILITIES MEDICAL CERTIFICATION
46. Article 2.05 of the Puerto Rico Weapons Act specifically requests the following
requirements: “(1) shows that he/she fears for his/her safety; (2) the petitioner shall file together
with his/her application for a permit to carry weapons, a receipt for an Internal Revenue
voucher for the amount of two hundred and fifty ($250.00) dollars drawn to the order of the
Superintendent and said voucher must have been previously presented to the Superintendent; (3)
a certificate issued by an authorized official of a gun club in Puerto Rico, to the effect that the
petitioner has passed a course in the correct use and handling of firearms.”
Moreover, the Superior Court and its judges insist in requesting the petitioners to comply
with and file other requirements set in Article 2.02 of the Weapons Act, namely (1) a non debt
certificate from the child support office known as ASUME; (2) three sworn statements from
reputation witnesses to the effect that the petitioner is worthy of having the privilege of baring a
weapon, bringing those 3 reputation witnesses to a hearing, in occasions (depending on which
court and/or judge) a medical certificate stating that the petitioner can operate a handgun and a
license to posses and/or shooting permit even though Article 2.02 is not the one that regulates the
weapons carry permit.
47. The Article 2.05 of the Puerto Rico Weapons Act impermissibly burdens the right
to keep and bear arms by requiring private citizens to show all the requirements previously listed
and pay $250.00 in order to be able to exercise a constitutional right.
48. The invalidities of the Superior Court and its judges requirements, the aforesaid
statute and regulations, and Defendants’ application of same, infringe Plaintiffs’ Second and
Fourteenth Amendments right and damage Plaintiffs in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983.
49. Plaintiffs’ injuries are irreparable because Plaintiffs are entitled to enjoy their
constitutional rights in fact.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray for the following relief:
i. declaratory judgment that PR Weapons Act, Articles 2.02 and 2.05 are facially
invalid under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments because they vest uncontrolled discretion
in the hands of state officials to grant or deny Permit to Carry applications and to grant, deny,
limit, or restrict Permits to Carry;
ii. declaratory judgment that PR Weapons Act, Articles 2.02 and 2.05 are facially
invalid pursuant to the Second and Fourteenth Amendments because they condition the approval
of Permit to Carry applications and the issuance of Permits to Carry on requirements like
reputation witnesses, child support debt certifications, payment of $250.00 and state tax returns
in order to exercise a fundamental right, all of which do not meet strict scrutiny and countermand
the Second and Fourteenth Amendments;
iii. an injunction directing the Puerto Rico Police Department and its Superintendent
to approve the applications of Mr. Williams and Mr. Gonzalez’s Permits to Carry with no
expiration date for a fundamental right does not expire;
iv. an injunction permanently restraining Defendants and their officers, agents,
servants, employees, and all persons in concert or participation with them who receive notice of
this injunction, from enforcing the Handgun Permit Laws so as to deny, restrict, or limit Permits
to Carry or applications for same for any reason other than those reasons specifically codified in
the statutes and regulations of the Commonwealth Of Puerto Rico;
v. an injunction permanently restraining Defendants and their officers, agents,
servants, employees, and all persons in active concert or participation with them who receive
notice of this injunction, from enforcing the Handgun Permit Laws so as to deny, restrict, or limit
Permits to Carry or applications for same on the ground that an applicant does not submit
reputation witnesses, child support certification, $250.00 voucher and certification of state tax
vi. such other and further relief, including injunctive relief, against all Defendants, as
may be necessary to effectuate the Court’s judgment, or as the Court otherwise deems just and
vii. attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
SANDOVAL BAEZ & ASSOCIATES
s/ Osvaldo Sandoval
Osvaldo Sandoval Esq., USDC 225308
Attorney for Plaintiffs
SANDOVAL BAEZ & ASSOCIATES
Celis Aguilera #6, Suite 201 A
Fajardo, PR 00738
(787) 860-0875 Fax (787)801-6394