According to a recent report by Fox News, many Venezuelan refugees are expressing regret with the aftermath of their socialist government’s criminalization of private gun ownership, saying that in hindsight it only increased crime, as well as made ordinary people helpless against the oppression of the government.
Venezuela under Maduro banned the sale of guns in 2012, in a move intended to reduce violent crime, though critics warned most weapon exchanges at the time did not take place through legal channels, meaning law-abiding citizens would disproportionately suffer. The vast majority of privately owned weapons were seized, with negligible numbers turned in through official buy-back, in a program which cost around $47 million to enforce.
This made gun ownership the exclusive legal right of the police and military, leaving ordinary civilians helpless, and under increasing threat of repression as Venezuela’s economy has spiraled under control, leading to mass discontent and frequent demonstrations, which are often violently put down. People lack access to food and the most basic of services and resources, and crime has skyrocketed, with the criminals in many cases being corrupt police forces.
However, while weapons remain technically legally off-limits to private citizens, the socialist regime has allowed or explicitly implemented the arming of pro-government street gangs, as well as Bolivarian revolutionary militias, which Maduro himself earlier this year set a target to increase from 100,000 to 400,000 strong.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s new right-wing populist president Jair Bolsonaro has promised to make good on his campaign pledge, popular among many Brazilians fed up with their country’s high violent crime rate which in 2017 alone saw the murders of nearly 64,000 people, to significantly loosen gun ownership laws to allow his people to defend their lives and families. The rest of the world would do well to note the stark contrast between the two countries.