Safety and Peace Research Center Director Professor Néstor Rosanía says, “The fact that the bill is still being debated is that –beyond citizen security– there are other economic interests involved; there are people that want to act like the Rifle Association of America and build an open weapon business, something inconceivable in a country like Colombia. The people that introduced the bill have never presented a consecutive line in security issues or a study to back their initiative. They are just worried about how to head the arms race in Colombia without a formal proposal within the security reform package. This is just a bill backed by personal interests.”
For Conservative Representative Juan Carlos Wills, leader of the initiative, the people that comply with the requirements can have access to weapons and care for their personal safety.
In Colombia, the Ministry of Defense is the entity in charge of providing tenancy and CCW permits. Tenancy is the possibility of maintaining a firearm in a stated location and CCW is the possibility of carrying a weapon wherever.
The debate proposes that a person can carry a concealed weapon (revolvers and pistols) and taking into account that rifles are not a massive selling item, as only safety/security companies manage them.
Rosanía adds, “The mistaken argument of the debate is that weapons can get to illegal armed groups, without considering that they already have an illegal distribution channel in the black market and do not need laws to access weapons, therefore crime is not strengthened. The problem is that in Colombia there are more deaths for intolerance than for the armed conflict; the risk for any citizen, who before used a machete, a knife, or a stick, can now have a firearm and amid an act of intolerance, use it against another person.”
In a 2018 study, Universidad of Harvard Professor David Hemenway, said that a weapon does not increase the security of a person, but just increases the risk; for example, having a firearm triplicates the risk of suicide1.
Rosanía then continues: “In a country with the high standards of violence and intolerance as Colombia this is an absolute danger, besides the little control of the black weapons market in the country is worrisome. Although the current weapons census shows 500,000 firearms, there should be more than 1 million weapons circulating in the black market, as crime groups and organized crime have their own weapons that are not in the statistics.”
Firearms liberation shows institutional weakness: “Meaning that the State was incapable of guaranteeing safety and had the concede the safety monopoly to civil personnel for them to protect themselves; it is clear that there is an urban security issue in Colombia, that indicators are poor and that with the pandemic the high unemployment and poverty rates will continue to rise,” he added.
Bogotá, Cali, and Medellín record the highest crime rates in the country and are permeated by narcotrafficking. Armed groups operate on the borders of the city where they have their operations centers. Cali, for instance, is the exit to the Pacific coast, and Medellín has the exit to Central America through the Panamanian border. On the other hand, Bogotá has turned into the city with the most narco trafficking activity due to micro-trafficking.
This is a more complex city, due to more people and that crime fights for different markets. This doesn’t mean that other cities such as Bucaramanga or Cúcuta are not participants of this crime; it just means that other crimes like the black weapons market are more of an issue and they have great violence issues of their own.
For realities such as this, Rosanía proposes that we not only need more urban policies, but greater institutional focus, greater science and technology, and more intelligence from the National Police forces, but also other tools, beyond providing weapons to people so they can defend themselves as this would show that the State is incapable of doing so.
Lastly, Rosanía says that it would be ideal to have an Urban Security law focused on creating a long-term, public policy: “Insecurity perception generates a lot of fear and this is the greatest determinant for taking weapons decisions, therefore the solution cannot be having more firearms as this does not improve security but creates more problems. The idea is to educate and focus on that having a weapon does not signify more security but more problems.
1 David Hemenway, Harvard professor says firearms do not increase your safety. https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-internacional-46206760
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