In Chile, it is legal to own handguns, shotguns, rifles and .22 caliber “assault” weapons. The guns have to be registered, and the owner must pass a gun and regulatory knowledge test plus a psychological examination. Many people in the upper classes own guns legally. Newcomers can do the same, even with a temporary residency visa.
Nevertheless, there is widespread fear among the upper classes that use of a gun in self-defense could result in a charge of homicide. In our upper-class neighborhood in Reñaca, there were two break-ins in March 2016. In one of them the occupants were at home and were tied up. One had a knife held to his throat by a criminal. It was scary.
The neighborhood WhatsApp group is quite active and whined about the event and tried to concoct solutions. When I suggested that we use guns to kill the intruders the people were terrified, not of the gun use but of the state putting them in prison. Even if that were the case what would be worse, being assaulted in your home and perhaps dying or killing the assailant and taking your chances in court?
I suggested to the group that we need to put a huge sign at the bottom of the hill much like those “accident-free day” signs we see in industrial plants. It would read: “Criminals Killed in this Neighborhood” and below would be two numbers, one on the left and the other on the right, with the inscriptions “by pistol” and “by shotgun” below each respective figure.
The cops (carabineros) cannot arrive in time. My sign would be a deterrent to criminals, especially if we actually start killing criminals and can put up some real numbers on the board. I checked with the carabineros in Reñaca and officer Marcos Villagra (on March 22, 2016) explained to me that we have the right to shoot in self-defense if a criminal is (1) inside our home, (2) in our yard, clearly not by accident, or (3) in any of our adjacent neighbors’ property (not including neighbors that must be reached by crossing a public street). He encouraged me to use my gun against criminal intruders and told me that he knew of many ex-military officers living in the neighborhood with registered weapons. In short, we can be a force to be reckoned with. The law is a bit ambiguous about certain places like one’s car, but clearly in one’s home or place of business a gun may be used in self-defense.
I have written about the terrible Chilean justice system, but there is some encouraging news that using handguns and shotguns in self-defense remain our advantage against criminals. On May 8, 2016, a story came out in national daily El Mercurio (page C12) about Benjamin Franklin Lillo Ramirez, age 61, a retired major (comandante) of the Chilean Air Force and presently a Petrobras service station owner. The business is located on Avenida Santa Rosa at the intersection of Calle Varas Mena (in the comuna of San Joaquin), a poorer, Marxist-infested, and crime-ridden part of south central Santiago. In over twenty-five years in the military, he never shot anyone. Now (May 2016) he is famous for shooting and killing a third and fourth criminal: Marco Muñoz and Eber Osses, and wounding another, that tried to rob him at his station. One died from his wounds on site and the other died at a public hospital, after fleeing the scene with an accomplice.
Lillo shot and killed two other criminals in May 2009 and June 2014. In both cases the local District Attorney (fiscal), Patricio Rojas, refused to charge Lillo with a crime. Rojas said that Lillo acted in legitimate self-defense.
Wow! The Chilean justice system does work sometimes. Lillo uses his registered gun, and he holds a valid personal gun license, plus a coveted concealed carry permit that few Chileans have. The district attorney requested a protection order for Lillo, although none has arrived in terms of officers to protect him. But it is probable that Lillo will be able to fend for himself pretty well.
In the 2009 event, while preparing his cash deposit for the day, Lillo distracted an assailant (Andres Catalan) long enough to get his pistol and shoot him four times, killing him. Lillo was not charged. In the 2014 event, Lillo was loading 22 million pesos in his car’s trunk when three criminals appeared and threatened him. He was shot in the hand and groin with a .22 by a criminal (two of five shots on target) before he responded by shooting back seven times and striking one assailant twice (Patricio Fernandez, a twice convicted and imprisoned criminal), in the throat and chest, killing him. He had the presence of mind to shut the trunk and throw the keys into the cage with his guard dogs. While the assailants went after the keys, Lillo used the time to present his pistol and shoot the assailants. Lillo was not charged.
In this most recent event in 2016, he shot one criminal in the forehead and two others in their torso when they tried to rob his cash box. Again, Lillo has not been charged with a crime. All of the events were captured on video surveillance tape and Lillo has been exonerated, even though the relatives of one deceased criminal have sought a homicide indictment and the state has provided a free attorney to represent them. Moreover, colleagues of the deceased have driven by and yelled death threats against Lillo since the May 2016 event. There could be more bloodshed, but I doubt that much more will come of it since criminals are cowards in the face of lethal force and are only brave against the weak and unarmed. Plus, they know that Lillo will not hesitate to kill them, creating a significant deterrent.
Hence, my neighbors’ fears of being indicted for acting in self-defense are unsubstantiated. This fact is a big plus for Chile, which still stands out against most every other advanced country in a largely gun-hating world (especially among Left-dominated OECD countries). Thus, we need not be so let down by the abysmal quality of Chilean justice. At least we can still defend ourselves, even if our tax money goes to waste on an inept justice system that otherwise favors criminals!
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