On August 20, 2002 the Venezuelan Government under Hugo Chavez enacted the Disarmament Law under the promise of reducing the crime violence gripping the nation. Six years later the results are tragically in: Caracas, the capital and most populated city in the country now boast the dishonorable distinction of being the most dangerous metropolis in the world with a murder rate of 130 per 100,000. The citizens of Caracas are in a literal state of siege and panic. The sounds of shots are more common than the sounds of birds and that is tough when you realize that tropical Venezuela is home to 11,000 species of birds.
Venezuela’s Disarmament Law is a Gun Control advocate wet dream. First of all it dictates that gun ownership is a privilege given by the Estate and to be removed without warning or compensation. You ask “compensation”? yes because it does not matter that you spent your hard earned money, filled paperwork, got fingerprinted, went through a psychiatric consult, waited up to a year and had to carry an specific permit for each gun you may be allowed to have, you do not own the gun, it belongs to the government, you are just renting it.
The Disarmament law voided all previous gun records and gave a 90 day grace period for gun owners to re-register their weapons. After that period expired, all guns not registered became illegal and the owner a criminal facing grave penalties and/or jail time.
But that, like infomercials say, is not all. This law complements The 1928 Law of Firearms and Explosives which defined the initial restrictions of gun ownership including what weapons & calibers are you allowed to “own.” IE: the good old 9mm is not a legal caliber to use because the Military uses it. Same for the .45 and the 30.06 and anything that has ever been used by any of the branches of the Venezuelan Military as standard weapon or caliber. That pretty much leaves the user with .22, .38, and .32 ACP. Shotguns may be OK but slugs are not allowed and rifled shotguns are a no-no.
The last ingredient in the 130 per 100,000 murder recipe is the criminalization of self defense. I am no legal expert or pretend to know about law so I will give you a sad anecdote. A Venezuelan criminal lawyer friend of mine emailed me some years back regarding a case she was defending. She wanted to consult me (like I was a Spanish speaking version of Mas Ayoob, yeah right!) about shooting techniques used in self defense and about some other self defense issues related to guns so I explained her all I could over the phone while I was preparing an email with links to several websites that might shed much better information that I could give. I asked what was the case about and she explained that her client was confronted inside of his house by an armed criminal in the wee hours of the night. The criminal was armed and so was the client who triple tapped the miscreant sending him to his well deserved oblivion. The home owner did the dutiful thing and called police who promptly arrested him and dragged his butt to jail for murder. I was shocked and asked why was he arrested if he was in his house, attacked by an armed criminal and he only defended himself. The lawyer responded that three shots, according to Venezuelan jurisprudence was too much, in fact it was legally considered “viciousness & savagery” (Ensañamiento in Spanish) and thus murder, not self-defense. The legal standing is that one should shoot only once, asses the damage done to the opponent and then shoot if the threat to one’s life is imminent. I asked the lawyer if that means I would have to give the Bad Guy a freebie shot before I could make sure he was gone for good and she said yes, that is the statute. She said that she could explain two shots fired as the person being nervous and pulling the trigger too fast without thinking but that the judge would not consider three shots as “nervousness.”
At the end her client ended up serving 10 years (the judge was gracious enough) for second degree murder. My only thought was that he was lucky he did not engage in a Bill Drill or he would serve thirty years in a Venezuelan prison.