Written by Elyssa Pachico
According to a Congressional committee that handles public security issues, some 80.5 percent of all crimes in Honduras are committed with unregistered guns, as the country prepares to debate a new set of gun reform laws. A member of the committee told El Heraldo newspaper that only 23 percent of the weapons circulating in Honduras are registered. This is slightly lower than a previous estimate released by the Honduran government’s human rights commission (CONADEH), which stated that just 30 percent of the country’s approximate total of 850,000 firearms are officially registered. The numbers were released as Honduras’ Congress is set to debate this week on stricter gun legislation.
The proposed reforms would reduce the number of firearms which a citizen can purchase from five to just one. The reforms would also require citizens to apply (and pay) for two separate licenses — one to purchase a firearm, and another one to carry it. The licenses would be valid for up to three years. The application fees could bring in some significant profits for the Honduran government, as El Heraldo notes. The proposed gun reform law would also mandate a special license in order to purchase and use explosive material. The law includes special exceptions that would make it easier for politicians, judges, prosecutors, and former government officials to apply for the new gun licenses.
Passing a set of stricter gun laws in Honduras will arguably not be as challenging as actually enforcing it. As indicated by the numbers released by the Congressional committee on public security, the National Arms Register is already doing a poor job at regulation.
Contributing to the amount of unregistered guns circulating through Honduras is the fact that corrupt elements of the police and military are believed to sell weapons to the black market. At other times, weapons in the hands of the government have simply disappeared. If Congress ultimately ends up approving stricter gun regulations, it will only be a symbolic step forward if the government does not address the other dynamics driving the illicit arms trade. (5/22/13)