The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. – Thomas Jefferson
During his 13 years of rule in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez has presided over a dramatic increase in violence in Venezuela.
In 1999, the year Chavez took office, 4,550 homicides were committed. By 2011, that number had skyrocketed nearly four fold to more than 19,000.
While official government statistics don’t coincide with independent statistics, all parties agree that the murder rate in Venezuela is more than 47 per 100,000 citizens placing it (at least) in the top five most dangerous countries globally. The global average is 6.9 murders per 100,000 people. Even Mexico, which has been marred by dramatic drug trafficking related violence, has a murder rate around 18 per 100,000.
Chavez’s leadership of the energy rich nation has been bombastic, and provocative during his tenure. He has shown sympathies to the leftist militant group FARC, seized massive private investments in the country, and has often seem more focused on antagonizing the United States than handling domestic issues such as crushing inflation, or exploding violence.
Far from simply banning private citizens from owning guns for self defense, the new law pushed by Chavez’s administration will go as far as nationalizing private gun institutions. Only security and police forces will be allowed to purchase guns from State controlled arms dealer and importer.
Experts point out that Venezuela already has strict gun laws, and a permit is already required to purchase them. There is concern that police forces lack the will and resources to fully implement the law, and the result will simply be to disarm law abiding citizens making them easier targets, while the most violent members of society will ignore the law.
While Chavez’s health is shrouded in secrecy, he is reportedly facing a potentially fatal bout of cancer, and his absence at the helm of an increasingly militaristic and dictatorial political machine could result in additional social and political unrest.
Currently, Henrique Capriles, mayor of Caracas, is one of the leading oposition candidates in the upcoming election.