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The NRA Vision of the American Future: Guatemala


The NRA argues that if only the good guys all had guns, they would shoot the bad guys and magically we wouldn’t have any gun violence. Or something strange like that. Never mind that time last year when the New York cops shot and wounded nine bystanders taking down an armed gunman at the Empire State Building. Or any other amount of evidence. Luckily, we can see in other countries what happens when everyone is armed. And it’s not good:

THOUGH many of these countries have restrictions on gun ownership, enforcement is lax. According to research by Flacso, the Guatemalan Social Science Academy, illegal guns far outnumber legal weapons in Central America.

All that has spawned a thriving security industry — the good guys with guns that grace every street corner — though experts say it is often unclear if their presence is making crime better or worse. In many countries, the armed guards have only six weeks of training.

Guatemala, with approximately 20,000 police officers, has 41,000 registered private security guards and an estimated 80,000 who are working without authorization. “To put people with guns who are not accountable or trained in places where there are lots of innocent people is just dangerous,” Ms. Peters said, noting that lethal force is used to deter minor crimes like shoplifting.

Indeed, even as some Americans propose expanding our gun culture into elementary schools, some Latin American cities are trying to rein in theirs. Bogotá’s new mayor, Gustavo Petro, has forbidden residents to carry weapons on streets, in cars or in any public space since last February, and the murder rate has dropped 50 percent to a 27-year low. He said, “Guns are not a defense, they are a risk.”

William Godnick, coordinator of the Public Security Program at the United Nations Regional Center for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, said that United Nations studies in Central America showed that people who used a gun to defend against an armed assault were far more likely to be injured or killed than if they had no weapon.

I’ve traveled throughout Central America. Everyone is armed. And I’ll tell you, it scared me. An armed society is an unsafe society. The “good guys” aren’t always so good and they most certainly aren’t always good shots. Arming everyone is a response to not investing in a social safety net and giving people hope for a better life. It’s not a good idea and as the evidence shows, it doesn’t make people safe.

Now I’m sure the NRA would be outraged by the comparison to Guatemala. The real reason for that of course is that those are Guatemalans and we are Americans. So somehow we’re better. Such a racialized response would hardly be surprising from an organization that took on its modern form as a result of the white backlash of the 1970s. The “good guys” the NRA wants armed are usually white in the American vision, the “bad guys” black and brown.

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