theguardian.com‘s post One murder every hour: how El Salvador became the homicide capital of the world lays the blame for the country’s record-setting carnage at the feet of “weak government, dire inequality and a historical national tendency towards violence both in institutions and households.” To be fair, writer Jonathan Watts highlights the recently escalated conflict between El Salvador’s two major drug gangs and the police but his analysis somehow completely misses the impact of El Salvador’s gun control regime. In fact . . .
gunpolicy.org pegs the country’s private gun ownership rate at 9.7 firearms per 100 people. That puts El Salvador at number 92 out of 178 ranked countries for private firearms ownership. In contrast, America is number one [with a bullet], with 101.5 firearms per 100 citizens. Is that a factor? The Guardian doesn’t seem to think so, even though . . .
Even before the latest surge, fear permeated daily life, particularly in poor communities where the gangs stake out most of their territories. Residents who cross the invisible line between them – usually an innocuous-looking bridge, road or park – risk beatings or even death. Taxi drivers dread wrong turns that can lead to robbery or kidnap. Shopping trips, lovers’ trysts and football matches are all circumscribed by safety concerns. Even staying at home is no guarantee of safety.
Shopkeepers, hairdressers and restaurant owners are frequently assailed by extortionists, who typically threaten arson attacks or to cut off the ears or fingers of spouses or children. Parents watch with rising alarm as their sons and daughters approach pubescence – and the inevitable pressures that follow to join the local gang. There is often no one to turn to for support: teachers are intimidated by students and police are afraid to enter many communities.
“Our son doesn’t dare go out because gang members threatened us. He hasn’t been to school for three months” said Bianca Sanchez, whose name has been changed, a hairdresser in the Aguilares region. “In our neighbourhood, people are killed all the time.”
You can bet that the only Salvadorians with a legal firearm are wealthy or well-connected, leaving the poorer populace at the mercy of the gangs and the police, funded by U.S. narcodollars, who’ve somehow developed (continued?) a fondness for extra-judicial assassinations.
Ironically, anti-gunners see the situation in El Salvador as a rationale for disarming American citizens. “This is the vision that the right wing and NRA has for the U.S.,” commentator