Guns seized in Caracas, Venezuela

According to a recent report by European research project Small Arms Survey, 21 out of 23 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean exceed the global average for the number of homicides committed with firearms.

The report, released on August 27, shows that firearms homicides in Latin America and the Caribbean are far higher than the global average of 42 percent. Firearms were found to be used in 60 percent of homicides in South America, 61 percent in the Caribbean, and 70 percent in Central America.

The survey also reveals that countries with the highest homicide rates had more murders committed with guns. In Latin America, this relationship is most visible in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, and Venezuela -- all of which have over 30 murders committed for every 100,000 inhabitants. The proportion of firearm homicides is over 70 percent in these countries, all of which have murder rates that have been increasing since 1995.

Cuba and Suriname are the only countries in the region with proportions of firearm homicides below the global average.

InSight Crime Analysis

The alarming number of firearms homicides in Latin America, which in the United Nations’ terms is reaching “epidemic levels,” has caused concern over availability of both legal and illegal weapons in the region.

The widespread availability of firearms is one of the most frequently cited reasons for the rise in violence in Venezuela, one of the worst afflicted countries. The 2011 Small Arms Survey estimated that there were between 1.6 and 4.1 million civilian firearms in Venezuela last year.

Venezuela has tried to tackle the problem by implementing disarmament campaigns and enacting stricter laws on firearms purchases and possession. On June 1, a law went into effect that bans the commercial sale of firearms and ammunition to civilians, following an amnesty period in which citizens could turn in both registered and unregistered weapons to the government without penalty.

Investigations

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