The Venezuelan government announced that it has destroyed more than 16,000 firearms so far this year, but despite this apparent success, concerns remain about the widespread availability of firearms in the country.
An official from the Venezuelan Commission for Arms Control and Disarmament also praised the recent handover of 1,418 weapons seized in various operations in the state of Aragua, saying it was “clear and convincing proof” that the government is fulfilling its promise to improve security and get weapons off the streets, reported El Universal. The weapons, which were collected by the state government and then turned over to the Defense Ministry’s General Directorate of Arms and Explosives, will be destroyed.
The government hopes that disarmament initiatives in various states will result in more than 30,000 weapons being seized by the end of the year.
InSight Crime Analysis
The widespread availability of firearms is one of the most frequently cited reasons for the rise in violence in Venezuela, where the homicide rate for 2012 is on track to surpass last year’s record level of 66 per 100,000 inhabitants. The 2011 Small Arms Survey estimated that there were between 1.6 and 4.1 million civilian firearms in Venezuela last year, while the 2012 survey found that the proportion of homicides by firearms is over 70 percent, well above the global average of 42 percent.
The government has implemented a number of policies to combat the problem, including public awareness campaigns and stricter gun control laws. The sale of weapons and ammunition to civilians was made illegal in June, following an amnesty period in which citizens could turn in unlicensed weapons to the government without penalty. Last year, disarmament programs collected more than 130,000 firearms from civilians.
Despite these efforts, however, larger institutional problems make it difficult to crack down on the availability of weapons. There are concerns about the role of volunteer militias, who have been armed by the government in the past, in spreading firearms among the civilian population. There are also issues within the police and the military, where corruption is rampant, which have been accused of providing weapons to Colombian armed groups in the past, among them the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).