900,000 Guns Missing in Colombia: Report

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The Colombian government has lost track of some 900,000 weapons owned by civilians, according to an online report, many of which might have ended up in the illegal arms trade.

Website Kien y Ke reported that neither Colombia’s Office of Commercial Arms Control or Indumil, the two government agencies that control the sale of arms, were able to account for 900,000 arms of the 1.2 million are legally held by civilians.

The weapons’ owners never renewed their licenses, and were not required to report a change of address or if the weapon was passed to a new owner, the site reported. It did not reveal the source of its figures.

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Colombia has long struggled to regulate gun ownership. While the Arms Trade Control Department (DCCA) is responsible for issuing legal gun permits on a temporary basis, it does not have the resources to effectively monitor these permits. When a gun permit expires, its holder more often than not refrains from reporting it for fear of facing penalties. For this reason the DCCA loses track of thousands of legally-obtained guns every year, according to a 2009 study (pdf) by the Fundacion Ideas para la Paz.

Once they have dropped off the state’s radar, these weapons may fall into the illegal arms trade, which is so well-established in Colombia that there are illicit gun rental services in cities like Medellin and Bogota where individuals can rent weapons for short periods of time. The mayor of Bogota instituted a ban on the public possession of guns in February this year, in order to cut violence. In the first eight months of the year, homicides were down 21 percent in the city.

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