A Mexico City government program to disarm civilians has been called a success story by officials but has failed to lower gun-related homicides, raising questions about the direct benefits of such gun amnesty initiatives.
Since the program “For your family, voluntary disarmament” began in December 2012, officials in the capital city have collected 13,183 firearms, more than double what had been collected in the four previous years, reported Milenio.
The Federal District social development secretary, Rosa Icela Rodriguez, said the program had helped make residents aware of the risks of gun ownership. The program — which involves the government giving cash and electronic goods in exchange for the guns — has also been recognized by international NGOs and other regional governments.
However, violence perpetrated using firearms has remained fairly constant over the period. According to figures from the National Public Security System (SNSP), 637 intentional injuries and 216 intentional homicides were committed with a gun between January and June this year, compared to 631 injuries and 223 murders in the same period last year.
InSight Crime Analysis
Mexico City’s disarmament program is just one of several initiatives aimed at taking guns off the streets in Latin America. Prominent ones have included a similar cash-for-guns amnesty program in Brazil, a “Plan Disarm” applied in Colombia’s three main cities — credited with contributing to a recent drop in homicides in Cali — and the restriction of gun sales and ownership in Venezuela, with an accompanying amnesty period to hand in unregistered weapons.
Amnesty initiatives are innovative in their attempt to approach gun control with “soft” measures. However, their effectiveness is debatable. Brazil continues to suffer from an extremely high percentage of gun-related deaths, and — as in the case of Mexico City — the number of such homicides remained fairly stable and even grew slightly during the program, although one study indicated it did help lower violence in Sao Paulo state. In Venezuela, the gun ban has similarly failed to reverse a rising homicide rate.
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In general, stricter gun control policies have failed to equate to less gun-related violence in Latin America. Institutional strength, police implementation of gun restrictions, the type of crime being targeted — common versus organized — and the availability of black market weapons are all key factors that amnesty programs fail to address.