After presiding over an unprecedented surge in violence and murder in Venezuela, the regime of socialist strongman Hugo Chávez — with the full support and assistance of the United Nations — has decided to wage all-out war on private firearm ownership. A series of new restrictions on the rights of civilians are supposedly part of an effort to fight crime and preserve “peace” as the nation’s ongoing economic implosion accelerates.
Critics and gun-rights advocates, however, blasted the controversial decision to disarm law-abiding citizens, warning that criminals could now run even wilder without any fear of consequences. More pessimistic analysts also warned that the already out-of-control socialist regime might seek to solidify its iron-fisted rule after rendering the public completely defenseless.
"We're the guarantee of peace," Chávez claimed, warning that his opponents might seek to foment violence ahead of the next election. According to the non-profit Venezuelan Violence Observatory (VVO), there were 4,500 homicides in 1999 when the socialist ruler seized power and instituted gun control. Last year, the figure was close to 20,000 — a new record for the nation. Few are ever solved.
Opponents of the new ban have highlighted the absurdity of targeting legal firearms. Attorney Luis Izquiel, who leads the security committee for Venezuela’s opposition, for example, noted that there were only around 25,000 gun permits, while the number of firearms in Venezuela is estimated at around 10 million.
"Here criminals don't use legal firearms," Izquiel told the Associated Press, saying that the regime was “misguided” in supposedly trying to tackle violence by targeting legal gun owners. Criminologist Fermín Mármol also told AFP that the new ban was aimed at law-abiding citizens and would therefore have "very little" impact on crime.
Other analysts said the scheme would likely lead to even more mayhem. “What will inevitably end up happening is the disarmament of law-abiding citizens while criminals maintain their weapons. It will do nothing to lessen the amount of crime occurring there,” explained Solomon Horn in an analysis for the liberty-minded Lone Republic. “In fact, it will probably create more.”
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Photos: Chávez (right) holds a miniature copy of the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution at the 2005 World Social Forum held in Brazil; (left) the infamous "twisted gun" sculpture outside UN headquarters.