Six years ago, the Venezuelan National Assembly, led by former President Hugo Chavez, enacted a law to disarm all citizens. Thousands of guns were seized by force, and now many citizens look back and regret that they gave up their ability to fight an oppressive regime, according to Fox News.
The "Control of Arms, Munitions and Disarmament Law" took effect in 2013 with little opposition, banning the commercial sale of guns to all except government entities, and resulting in more than 12,500 guns being seized by authorities.
"Venezuelans didn't care enough about it," said Javier Vanegas, a teacher who was exiled from Venezuela to Ecuador, according to Fox News. "The idea of having the means to protect your home was seen as only needed out in the fields. People never would have believed they needed to defend themselves against the government. Venezuelans evolved to always hope that our government would be non-tyrannical, non-violator of human rights, and would always have a good enough control of criminality."
Nearly 200 pro-democracy protesters have been shot and killed by government forces under the country's socialist dictatorship since April 2017—relegated to facing armed troops with stones. David Kopel, a policy analyst for the Independence Institute, said the crumbling nation is a good example of the dangers a disarmed citizenry faces.
"Venezuela shows the deadly peril when citizens are deprived of the means of resisting the depredations of a criminal government," Kopel told Fox News. "The Venezuelan rulers—like their Cuban masters—apparently viewed citizen possession of arms as a potential danger to a permanent communist monopoly of power."
In addition to government oppression, the crime rate increased dramatically once the 2013 law took effect. In 2012, fewer than 10,000 people were murdered in Venezuela. In 2015, nearly 28,000 people were murdered, giving Venezuela the world's highest murder rate.
Some of that increased violence came from government-backed gangs known as "collectivos" who were put in place to control communities and suppress protests.
"The gun reform policy of the government was about social control," said Vanessa Neumann, president and founder of a political risk research firm called Asymmetrica. "As the citizenry got more desperate and hungry and angry with the political situation, they did not want them to be able to defend themselves.
"It was not about security; it was about a monopoly on violence and social control," she said.