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Colombia’s Unarmed and Defenseless Citizens

Ciudadanía desarmada e indefensa

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[Leer en español]

“All armed prophets succeeded, and as many as were unarmed were ruined.”
Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter VI

The riots in Colombia showed the defenseless situation in which the citizens find themselves because they lack firearms and because the members of the public forces, who should defend them, cannot use theirs.

The already difficult access for private citizens to carry and possess firearms makes it, under the terms of Law 61 of 1993 and Decree 2523 of the same year, practically impossible, particularly after the issuance of Decree 2515 of 2015, which ordered the general suspension of carrying permits. A bill by Senator María Fernanda Cabal seeks to reestablish the carrying conditions prior to the aforementioned decree. The fact is that, by decision of the Santos Government, ratified by Duque, citizens are unarmed and totally defenseless against ordinary criminals and criminals camouflaged in the so-called social protest.

The disarmament of the police against vandals was ordered in Decree 003 of January 2021, through which the statute of reaction, use and verification of the legitimate force of the state and protection of the right to peaceful citizen protest is issued. There, it is provided that the police in charge of monitoring peaceful demonstrations may not carry or use firearms, which is fine when it comes to effectively peaceful demonstrations, but it is something completely absurd when such demonstrations conclude, as usual, in blockades of public roads, vandalization of public and private property and attacks on the police officers themselves.

An unarmed citizen in the face of violent actions against his property and life in the midst of protests in Colombia. (Image: EFE)

The fact that the police officer does not have firearms or, if they do, cannot use them against their aggressors, unless the latter attacks him with firearms, places the officer in a situation of total defenselessness when he is attacked with weapons such as machetes, bats, mud bricks, firebombs, acid flasks that can have a lethal effect.

Because he is more or less certain that the agent cannot respond forcefully to his aggression, the aggressor feels confident and attacks him. His attitude would be different if he were certain that the officer could respond with a shot in the leg, for example.

We must insist on this issue. Today there is a prevailing theory according to which policemen or soldiers cannot use firearms unless they are attacked with firearms. This is extremely serious, because it is tantamount to disarming the policeman or soldier. If the attacker is sure that the policeman or soldier will not use his firearm, it loses its deterrent power and being armed they are more disarmed than if they had no weapon at all and more defenseless.

The basis of the social contract is the surrender to the state of the monopoly of legitimate force. The state functions not by the permanent use of force, but by its deterrent power. When that deterrent power disappears, the state collapses. Thus, every time a policeman or soldier loses the deterrent power conferred by his weapons, the state is collapsing a little.

Luis Guillermo Vélez Álvarez is an economist and consultant at the Center for Systemic Economics Studies (ECSIM). @LuisGuillermoVl // Luis Guillermo Vélez Álvarez es economista y consultor del Centro De Estudios En Economía Sistémica (ECSIM). @LuisGuillermoVl

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