On February 1, Bogotá, in the past one of Latin America’s most violent capitals, began to restrict weapon bearing for a three-month trial period, with the aim of reducing the homicide rate and creating awareness among citizens.
The measure “seeks to discourage the use of weapons, to stress the futility and danger of having a firearm,” Mayor Gustavo Petro said upon launching the “Weapons or love? Yes to citizen disarmament” campaign in the locality of Kennedy, in southern Bogotá and one of the Colombian capital’s most violent sectors.
The restriction on bearing weapons was one of the first measures announced by Petro, an economist and a former guerrilla with the demobilized April 19th Movement (M-19), upon taking office as mayor on January 1.
The homicide rate in Bogotá, which has over 7 million inhabitants, was 21.5 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011, according to the mayor’s office.
Bogotá does not appear on the list of the world’s 50 most violent cities drawn up by the Citizen Council for Public Safety, a Mexican NGO, and it comes in well below Caracas (98.7 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants) and Guatemala City (74.5 per 100,000).
Bogotá’s homicide rate is also far lower than that of other Colombian cities, such as Cali (77.9 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants) and Medellín (70.3 per 100,000), according to that list.
According to official preliminary figures, Bogotá recorded 1,632 homicides in 2011, 62.3 percent of which were committed using firearms.
Firearms were also used in 21.95 percent of vehicle thefts, 20.8 percent of assaults, and 17.9 percent of store robberies, according to the mayor’s office.
The restriction will be in effect until May 1, but the mayor announced that “if in a month or two we’re seeing positive results in terms of a decrease in homicides, we’re going to ask to extend the measure.”
According to calculations by the mayor’s office, between 10 and 12 percent of homicides in Bogotá take place using legally registered firearms. The number of weapons circulating illegally in the Colombian capital is unknown.
The prohibition does not affect members of Government forces, private security firms, diplomatic escorts, ministers, and deputy ministers.