Merida, August 12th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Thursday Venezuelans held the first of numerous public debates on the proposed Law of Firearms Control and Disarmament drafted by the country’s National Assembly. A legal initiative proposed by the Presidential Commission for Disarmament, the draft law is to be discussed by organized communities nationwide before being modified and passed next year.
“The idea is that this law be the result of a transparent, ample, and profound discussion by Venezuelan society,” explained United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) lawmaker Freddy Bernal.
Bernal, who is president of the National Assembly’s bi-partisan commission established to draft the Law of Firearms Control and Disarmament, affirmed that the pending legislation “is to be a fundamental instrument for State policies aimed at controlling criminality and violence.”
To be effecting, said Bernal, the Presidential Commission for Disarmament is asking “the entire population to share their proposals and express their criticisms, thus strengthening this legal instrument.”
“The debate must include governors, mayors, society on the whole, as well as the means of communication – since all are co-responsible in addressing the problem (of gun violence),” he affirmed.
Communal councils, individual citizens, academics, campesino and cattle rancher associations, sporting clubs, and non governmental organizations (NGOs) have also been invited to the debates.
As reported in Venezuela’s daily Correo del Orinoco, the legislation contemplates a revision of arms purchasing laws, an overall reduction in the sale of guns to private citizens, the opening of a legal window for unlicensed weapons to be handed over to the State, and the participation of communal councils in the local control of gun ownership.
The first debate on said law, held yesterday in Maracay, state of Aragua, brought together members of the general public, human rights activists, local law enforcement, the National Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB), and the country’s National Guard (GN).
Present at the debate was Alfredo Roberto Missair, United Nations representative in Venezuela, who affirmed that the law under discussion “is a fundamental aspect of (guaranteeing) Human Rights” in Venezuela because a policy of disarmament “looks to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of age, sex, or social condition.”
The final edition of the law is not expected to be passed until sometime next year, after Venezuelans nationwide have had the opportunity to give their feedback on an entire “packet of laws and measures which include the Law of Disarmament, the Organic Law of Communal Justice, the reform to the Organic Code of Penal Process, and the Organic Penitentiary Code,” explained Bernal.
Venezuela’s Ministry of Defense reports that close to 200,000 arms have been confiscated and destroyed since 2003, 65,000 of them removed last year.
While the removal of arms from society has advanced steadily, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) reports that 79.4% of homicides committed in Venezuela between June 2008 and June 2009 were the result of gun violence.
Last year, the murder rate in Venezuela reached 48 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, the majority of which died from gunshot wounds.