CARACAS – Venezuelan authorities have established a moratorium on importing guns for sale to the general public, while banning the marketing of munitions and all other armaments in an attempt to “put order” in that sector and exercise some control over the nation’s widespread violence.
The technical secretary of the Presidential Commission for the Control of Arms, Munitions and Disarmament, Pablo Fernandez, said Friday in an interview on state channel VTV that since Feb. 29 “the importing of weapons to Venezuela has been suspended.”
Exempt from the restriction are state security agencies, the armed forces and duly registered security firms.
Fernandez said the measure will allow greater protection for the safety of private citizens, which, he said, “has been degenerating into a state of chaos.”
The suspension of imports is accompanied by other measures, such as “a national process for legalizing the possession of arms,” which will take three months and will serve to register people “with arms acquired legally but without having their papers in order.”
Also contemplated is a control mechanism for arms and munitions that permits their origin to be tracked.
Interior and Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami later told a press conference that the marketing of arms and munitions is also suspended.
“This is not just about imports but also about local gunsmiths, who will no longer be allowed to sell firearms,” the minister told a press conference, adding that “no one is allowed to sell munitions.”
El Aissami said that also prohibited as a consequence of the ban on selling new weapons is the issuing of new licenses to bear arms.
Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the region, with 48 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants annually.
According to government figures, a firearm is involved in 98 percent of homicides in the South American country, and 63 percent of the murder victims were hit with more than five bullets.