For the first time in its history, Colombia has introduced a new measure, banning its citizens from carrying firearms for the entire duration of 2016.
The nationwide ruling differs from Brazil’s 2003 example, which ruled a permanent ban on the carrying of any firearms across the country.
In Bogotá, a ban little under a month (23 December – 31 January) was slapped on the capital’s residents. The results were deemed a success, with a 13 percent drop in murder rates, a total of 146 less deaths as a result of firearms usage reported in comparison with January 2015, BBC Mundo reports.
Certainly as Colombia looks to peace and the new sociopolitical scene that a clean up act will entail, an all-out arms ban appears to be a step in the right direction.
“The results we have obtained from the police in relation to the number of lives saved thanks to this decision is positive,” President Juan Manuel Santos commented in relation to the new measure.
“We will be able to continue reducing crime, and above all crimes committed using these firearms.” Santos added. The ruling will remain in force until December 31 2016.
The mandate tweeted news of the new ruling, adding that “Saving lives in Bogotá and the rest of the country remains our priority.”
Extenderemos prohibición porte de armas hasta 31/dic. Salvar vidas en Bogotá y el resto del país es nuestra prioridad #BogotáSeguraParaTodos
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) January 19, 2016
Yet problems continue to persist. Police will now have to maintain a closer eye on the country’s illegal arms trade, over concerns that demand will continue to grow despite the new ruling. There are currently some 2.5 million illegal firearms in Colombia, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas estimates, of which 97 to 98 percent are handguns and long firearms.
Homicides committed using illegally trafficked weapons also pose a new issue, as identifying the source and manufacturer of the arm used will result in even longer investigation time.
Colombians currently in possession of firearms will now need to own a special license, permitting the weapon to be kept in their homes. Similarly, security firms using firearms will also be recognized under a different ruling.
Illegal arms and murder rates
Colombia’s current murder rate is estimated at around 25 victims per 100,000 homicides. Certainly this is a step in the right direction, but the totals still remain above the regional average of 15 per 100,000.
While a year-long ban is positive news for Colombia, questions remain as to why Santos did not decide to follow Brazil’s example. The signing of a peace deal will not guarantee the disappearance of all of Colombia’s armed violence. Furthermore, gangs and criminals will now be fueling investment in an illegal arms trade which could be set to claim even more victims during 2016 and beyond.
With success in Bogotá just the tip of a bloody iceberg, Santos will continue to have his hands full when it comes to managing security across the country to ensure that the ban is fully enforced in more rural, off-grid areas.
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