A Voice For the Voiceless


The Advocacy Project (AP) recruits students to help marginalized communities tell their story and claim their rights.

My RSS Feed

Twitter: #apfellows

Spotlight on Guns in Colombia

Rebecca Gerome | PostedJuly 1st, 2009 | Latin America

Tags: , , , ,

I just arrived in Cali yesterday and I cannot think of a more exciting time to work on gun-related issues in Colombia. In the past few weeks, municipal governments have been implementing a variety of ambitious disarmament campaigns, whose media coverage, which includes leading newspapers and magazines from left to right, is remarkable.

Bogotá and Cali’s municipalities have been particularly active in the past few weeks. Bogotá’s campaign, “Amar es desarmarte” (To love is to disarm) includes pedagogical work in neighborhoods, artistic performances and a program to swap weapons for vouchers of up to 300,000 pesos (150$US). The District Administration of Bogotá also banned the carrying of arms in the capital, including for those who have gun licenses, for 10 days until July 3rd. The authorities aim to reduce violent deaths by up to 13%. In May, Cali launched “El Plan Desarme” which prohibited the bearing of arms for a month. According to the police, 128 firearms were confiscated during that period.

These campaigns, which have been going on since 1996, have not, however, been sufficient to address the devastating impact of weapons, as figures of the National Institute of Legal Medicine show. The murder rate in Bogotá, one of the highest in the world with 21 per 100,000 inhabitants, is still below other Colombian cities like Cali, with a rate of 67 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Andres Restrepo, Assistant Secretary of the municipal government of Bogotá, emphasized to Semana that these campaigns are part of “an effort to ‘remove’ from the collective consciousness …that through the use of arms one can resolve conflicts.” Restrepo noted that there is an estimated three to four million firearms in Colombia, of which only one million are legal; he also added that there is no precise data about the illegal market.

Clara Lopez, Secretary of the municipal government of Bogotá, reported to El Espectador that “in over 16 citizen disarmament campaigns, there have been delivered 6369 guns, 91,111 rounds of ammunition and 651 explosive devices.”

“Disarmament is a public necessity, because the more weapons are held by the public, whether legal or illegal, the more insecurity there is, and the more likely crime, homicide, robbery and personal injury will occur. Arms are used as a form of domination over others; they rule out dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflicts. Disarmament is a national imperative”, she added.

Guns are even becoming an electoral issue, though a minor one. The Liberal presidential hopeful and former Chief Prosecutor Alfonso Gómez Mendez told El Tiempo that if elected President, he would impose general disarmament in the country. Although he is only a minor candidate and not the favorite of the party, his strong position on the issue is still noteworthy. <

This is an approximate translation of his speech to El Tiempo: “Not a day goes by without us hearing on the radio, seeing on television or reading in the newspapers that citizens, innocent citizens, are victims of what we have come to call the ‘stray bullets.’ This is a result of the fact that many people own arms in this country. If I become president, I will implement a policy of general disarmament. The only people who can use weapons are members of the police, the army and State security forces, but citizens have no reason to be armed. I will regain the State’s monopoly of the use of arms. We citizens must trust them and cease to bear arms.”

Stay tuned for the next blog post about how women are being killed by those who love them most because of the presence of guns in their homes!

Tags: , , , ,

7 Responses to “Spotlight on Guns in Colombia”

  1. Hana says:

    While you feel like your right is threatened by people who are trying to limit access to guns, these said guns are taking away lives of adults and innocent children. And I think we should put the lives of children above any of our rights.

    To your point: How is arresting somebody a solution to unjustified killings? If somebody kills your kid or your relative or friend “by accident” I am sure you will feel that everything is ok once that somebody gets arrested.

    These are human lives at stake, it is not a game of monopoly.

    There is a great book written by Geoffrey Canada called Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun : Personal History of Violence in America
    It is about kids that live with the threat of being shot every day. In the same America where you feel you are entitled to own a gun.

  2. Greg says:

    I cannot believe these posts, or the content of this article for that matter. All people who are afraid of guns shouldn’t have one, PERIOD! If you’d shot or killed someone that didn’t threaten your life, family members or property, then you should be arrested. All that don’t apply should have every right to self defense. Quiero incluir mis hermanos armada in mi querida Colombia! Viva la libertad de Cali y todos en este pais tan espectacular!! The wingnuts who have relentlessly fought to take away our second ammendment rights have now shifted focus toward other countries in hopes of lowering #’s killed to begin the propoganda machine against 2nd ammendment.

  3. wbosworth1 says:

    It will be interesting to see how the summer unfolds in Cali, Colombia. In the North End section of Hartford Connecticut (USA) gun violence is so intense that children are not allowed to play outside, grocery stores and other forms of commerce have disappeared from the city, and property values have plummeted. A poll taken by the Interfaith Co-alliance for Social Justice found that crime and violence is a greater concern among the poor who live there than the absence of access to health care.

    Your reference to studies that show that marginalized, disenfranchised people feel empowered by guns is certainly supported in the United States. The poor in Hartford are almost inevitably the perpetrators and the victims of gun violence. Although a smaller portion of gun violence in America is directed at women, anti-gun advocacy is just as badly needed in the U.S. cities as it is in Cali. I’ll be eager to see what your activities are in Cali and learn how effective they turn out to be. Good luck!

  4. Nancy Workman says:

    Again, your work makes me think of the murder trial on which I just served. The defendant would have been the victim of a theft if he had not habitually carried a knife he knew all too well how to use, but he wouldn’t be headed for prison for second-degree murder for killing the thief’s accomplice. Carrying a weapon for “self-defense” didn’t work out too well in his case.

  5. ted says:

    Defenders of the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution (which, in theory, permits all citizens to posses a gun) say that if you make everyone give up their guns, that leaves only criminals with guns, suggesting that good citizens will be defenseless against the bad guys. However, it always seemed to me that this would draw a better line so it would be easier to know who the bad guys are. Self defense that involves guns is already a problem.

  6. Sarah says:

    Changing cultural norms is a hard task! I can relate because of my work in breastfeeding education…here in France it is just not considered (breastfeeding) something that everyone does so it isn’t a norm thus many women don’t do it. Whereas in a country such as Norway, it is common to see women breastfeeding in public, mothers and sister do it, and it is considered something normal. Carrying guns and using them to resolve problems seems to be a cultural norm in Colombia so it is going to take great cultural change to move away from this model. It is so cool that you are arriving to work on this project in Colombia during what is hopefully a paradigm shift!

  7. Frances says:

    Glad to see that you’ve arrived safely! I look forward to following your adventures via this blog.

Leave a Reply

Security Code:

Fellow: Rebecca Gerome

Colectivo Mujeres Pazificas in Colombia


activist Aguablanca armed domestic violence arms asopropaz asylum Bogota Cali children Colectivo No Violencia Colombia disarm domestic violence Disarming domestic violence domestic abuse domestic violence economic dependence El Plan Desarme Escuela Politica de Mujeres Pacificas Family law France gender guns IANSA immigration Infogenero London Machismo MAVI Mujer Arte y Vida Mujeres Obama Panfletos Peace poverty Refugee status small arms US vulnerability women women's network Women's Rights women's shelters women activists Youth




2013 Fellows


Benan Grams
Meron Menwyelet
Mohammed Alshubrumi
John Steies


Andra Bosneag
Chris Pinderhughes
Emily MacDonald
Jasveen Bindra
Kelly Howell
Raymond Aycock
Sujita Basnet

Middle East

Mona Niebuhr

2012 Fellows


Dane Macri
Laura McAdams
Mallory Minter
Megan Orr
Oluwatooni Akanni
Katie Hoffman


Adam Kruse
Alex Kelly
Alicia Evangelides
Heather Webb
Jesse Cottrell
Matthew Becker
Rachel Palmer


Claire Noone
Elise Filo

Latin America

Laura Burns

Middle East

Nur Arafeh
Thayer Hastings

North America

Caroline Risacher

2011 Fellows


Charlie Walker
Charlotte Bourdillon
Cleia Noia
Dina Buck
Jamyel Jenifer
Kristen Maryn
Rebecca Scherpelz
Scarlett Chidgey
Walter James


Amanda Lasik
Chantal Uwizera
Chelsea Ament
Clara Kollm
Corey Black
Lauren Katz
Maelanny Purwaningrum
Maria Skouras
Meredith Williams
Ryan McGovern
Samantha Syverson


Beth Wofford
Julia Dowling
Quinn Van Valer-Campbell
Samantha Hammer
Susan Craig-Greene

Latin America

Amy Bracken
Catherine Binet

Middle East

Nikki Hodgson

North America

Sarah Wang

2010 Fellows


Abisola Adekoya
Annika Allman
Brooke Blanchard
Christine Carlson
Christy Gillmore
Dara Lipton
Dina Buck
Josanna Lewin
Joya Taft-Dick
Louis Rezac
Ned Meerdink
Sylvie Bisangwa


Adrienne Henck
Karie Cross
Kerry McBroom
Kate Bollinger
Lauren Katz
Simon Kläntschi
Zarin Hamid


Laila Zulkaphil
Susan Craig-Greene
Tereza Bottman

Latin America

Karin Orr

North America

Adepeju Solarin
Oscar Alvarado

2009 Fellows


Adam Welti
Alixa Sharkey
Barbara Dziedzic
Bryan Lupton

Courtney Chance
Elisa Garcia
Helah Robinson
Johanna Paillet
Johanna Wilkie
Kate Cummings
Laura Gordon
Lisa Rogoff
Luna Liu
Ned Meerdink
Walter James


Abhilash Medhi
Gretchen Murphy
Isha Mehmood
Jacqui Kotyk
Jessica Tirado
Kan Yan
Morgan St. Clair
Ted Mathys


Alison Sluiter
Christina Hooson
Donna Harati
Fanny Grandchamp
Kelsey Bristow
Simran Sachdev
Susan Craig-Greene
Tiffany Ommundsen

Latin America

Althea Middleton-Detzner
Carolyn Ramsdell
Jessica Varat
Lindsey Crifasi
Rebecca Gerome
Zachary Parker

Middle East

Corrine Schneider
Rachel Brown
Rangineh Azimzadeh

North America

Elizabeth Mandelman
Farzin Farzad

2008 Fellows

Adam Nord
Annelieke van de Wiel
Juliet Hutchings
Kristina Rosinsky
Lucas Wolf
Chi Vu
Danita Topcagic
Heather Gilberds
Jes Therkelsen
Libby Abbott
Mackenzie Berg
Nicole Farkouh
Ola Duru
Paul Colombini
Raka Banerjee
Shubha Bala
Antigona Kukaj
Colby Pacheco
James Dasinger
Janet Rabin
Nicole Slezak
Shweta Dewan
Amy Offner
Ash Kosiewicz
Hannah McKeeth
Heidi McKinnon
Larissa Hotra
Hannah Wright
Krystal Sirman
Rianne Van Doeveren
Willow Heske

2007 Fellows

Johnathan Homer
Adam Nord
Audrey Roberts
Caitlin Burnett
Devin Greenleaf
Jeff Yarborough
Julia Zoo
Madeline England
Maha Khan
Mariko Scavone
Mark Koenig
Nicole Farkouh
Saba Haq
Tassos Coulaloglou
Ted Samuel
Alison Morse
Gail Morgado
Jennifer Hollinger
Katie Wroblewski
Leslie Ibeanusi
Michelle Lanspa
Stephanie Gilbert
Zach Scott
Abby Weil
Jessica Boccardo
Sara Zampierin
Eliza Bates
Erin Wroblewski
Tatsiana Hulko

2006 Interns

Laura Cardinal
Jessical Sewall
Alison Long
Autumn Graham
Donna Laverdiere
Erica Issac
Greg Holyfield
Lori Tomoe Mizuno
Melissa Muscio
Nicole Cordeau
Stacey Spivey
Anya Gorovets
Barbara Bearden
Lynne Engleman
Yvette Barnes
Charles Wright
Sarah Sachs

2005 Interns

Eun Ha Kim
Malia Mason
Anne Finnan
Carrie Hasselback
Karen Adler
Sarosh Syed
Shirin Sahani
Chiara Zerunian
Ewa Sobczynska
MacKenzie Frady
Margaret Swink
Sabri Ben-Achour
Nitzan Goldberger

2004 Interns

Ginny Barahona
Michael Keller
Sarah Schores
Melinda Willis
Pia Schneider
Stacy Kosko
Carmen Morcos
Christina Fetterhoff
Stacy Kosko
Bushra Mukbil

2003 Interns

Erica Williams
Kate Kuo
Claudia Zambra
Julie Lee
Kimberly Birdsall
Marta Schaaf
Caitlin Williams
Courtney Radsch