There are places in the world where the obvious, open carry of firearms is a dangerous thing to do. This occurs where life becomes cheaper than the value of a modern firearm, legal firearms are hard to obtain, and the police are held in low esteem. I first heard of this in the early 1980’s in graduate school when an erudite colleague, Norman Whisler, showed me articles from India where officers were murdered for their service firearms on a fairly regular basis. The harder a society makes it to obtain modern firearms, the more police who openly carry are put at risk . . .
As the black market value of a firearm approaches and exceeds the average annual income, a line is crossed where targeting police for their arms becomes attractive enough to try. This is one reason that many countries with lower income levels restrict police from carrying arms off duty. Another is the tendency of the same police to “lose” their duty gun, making a tidy profit on the black market in the process.
The budding socialist utopia of Venezuela has reached this point. Legal handguns have been virtually outlawed for ordinary citizens. Ammunition is difficult to come by, if you can get it at all. People who aren’t associated with the government are only allowed to own .22 rifles or shotguns. And police officers are routinely murdered for their weapons.
Soaring crime in Caracas throughout 2014 has given it the unenviable ranking of second most violent city in the world, with a murder rate of 155 for every 100,000 inhabitants, according to Mexican NGO Security, Justice, and Peace. In the Venezuelan capital, not even the state’s security forces are safe: during the first 29 days of 2015, criminals murdered 13 of the city’s uniformed officers. Circumstances varied, but in the majority of cases, the perpetrators killed police to steal their firearms.
Another important factor is the destruction of any faith in the criminal justice system and the rule of law. This is the common denominator in virtually all societies with homicide rates over 20 per hundred thousand, including some urban centers in the United States.
In Venezuela, the faith in the criminal justice system wasn’t very high even before Hugo Chavez came to power. Since his ascendancy and now under his successor, Nicolas Maduro, it has has fallen through the floor.
With the reduction in the price of oil, it’s likely that spiraling Venezuelan crime rate will rise even further. Over half of government income in Venezuela is from the sale of oil, and world oil price levels have dropped by half. As large portions of the Venezuelan population have become dependent on government subsidies produced by high oil prices, severe disruptions seem likely.
Poverty alone doesn’t correlate to high crime rates. The Venezuelan government claims to have reduced poverty by half, while the murder rate has tripled. Some societies have low income levels along with low levels of crime. Create a lack of respect for the rule of law, though, and society becomes much more dangerous for everyone, including openly armed police.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.