HomeNewsAnalysisIs Bogota's Gun Ban Responsible for a Drop in Homicides?
ANALYSIS

Is Bogota's Gun Ban Responsible for a Drop in Homicides?

COLOMBIA / 11 MAY 2012 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

The city of Bogota has seen a significant reduction in homicides after passing a ban on carrying guns. If the two developments prove to be related, the ban could provide a model to other violence-plagued cities in the region.

On February 1, newly-elected Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro introduced a three-month ban on carrying guns in public, saying that to carry a weapon represented “not a defense mechanism, but a risk.” On April 30, Petro declared that the ban had been a success, and had contributed to a 31 percent drop in homicides when compared to the first four months of 2011. April in particular saw a particularly large drop in homicides, and with only 96 murders reported, was the most peaceful April on record in 15 years. Because of this, Petro and local army officials (the military is responsible for gun regulation in the country) announced that the ban would be extended for three more months.

If the ban continues to see success, it may prove permanent. Petro has expressed interest in this, and saying that he wants to change the attitude of Colombians towards weapons, in order to “generate a culture of tolerance and love."

At first glance, the gun ban and corresponding drop in homicides seems to provide a compelling model for cities elsewhere in the region. As a report recently published by the Inter-American Dialogue noted, most of Latin America’s homicides are concentrated in urban areas. Indeed, access to weapons has been cited by some commentators -- including InSight Crime -- as one of the main drivers of violence in Caracas, especially among poor youths in the city’s slums. If restricting the bearing of firearms had so much success in Bogota, why not export it to other violent hotspots in the hemisphere, like Caracas, Rio de Janeiro, or San Pedro Sula?

The fact is, however, that there are a number of other factors that could have played into the city’s reduction in homicides. Bogota was the first site of a new national urban security initiative launched last year, known as “Plan Cuadrantes,” which was designed to divide cities into as many as several hundred sectors, each manned by a police base. According to National Police officials, Plan Cuadrantes encourages ties to the community by focusing efforts on block-by-block policing. While acknowledging the impact of the gun ban, Bogota police credit the implementation of Plan Cuadrantes with lowering crime in the capital city.

Another factor which likely played into the reduction in violence were the June 2011 changes made to Bogota’s liquor laws under the previous acting mayor, Clara Lopez Obregon. The new code made it illegal to sell alcoholic beverages in liquor stores, grocery stores, and corner shops after 11:00 p.m., and banned the public consumption of alcohol after that time. The move is believed to have cut down on violent confrontations, as around 90 percent of reported conflicts registered in 2010 involved some degree of alcohol use.

In addition to these other explanations, it is simply too early to call the gun ban a success. A 31 percent drop over four months, after all, is hardly conclusive evidence that the policy has made an impact on violence in Bogota. Homicide rates are also falling in Colombia’s other major cities of Medellin and Cali, suggesting that this may be a nationwide trend, possibly related to the country’s long-term decline in unemployment.

Because Petro himself is a former guerrilla who laid down his weapons to participate in conventional politics, the gun ban is an attractive narrative, but there is simply not enough hard evidence to back his assertion that it has made an impact on violence. Indeed, attempts to concretely link the availability of weapons with homicide rates elsewhere in Latin America have proved to be problematic, meaning that at the very least a degree of skepticism is necessary before hailing Bogota’s gun ban as a policy model for reining in security in the region.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 21 AUG 2015

Venezuela has deployed troops to its border and called for crisis talks with Colombia after an attack against its security…

COLOMBIA / 26 MAY 2022

Until his death, Gentil Duarte was the most-wanted man in Colombia and one of South America's leading drug traffickers.

GENDER AND CRIME / 13 JAN 2011

The burned bodies of three women were found dumped by a road outside Guatemala’s capital Wednesday. The country has one…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…

THE ORGANIZATION

Coverage of Fallen Paraguay Prosecutor Makes Headlines

20 MAY 2022

The murder of leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci, while on honeymoon in Colombia, has drawn attention to the evolution of organized crime in Paraguay. While 17 people have been arrested…