AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

Raise your hand if you knew that there was a libertarian think tank in Venezuela.

Okay, put your hand down, know-it-all. I, for one, was pretty surprised to learn that such a thing exists in the workers paradise of Venezuela, but it’s true. It’s called Econintech, and its founders recently spoke to the website 71Republic about a wide variety of topics, including how the country’s ban on private ownership of firearms is empowering the Maduro regime. Raphael Acevedo, one of the founders of Econintech is a Venezuelan native who’s now a research assistant at Texas Tech University’s Free Market Institute. He says it’s clear that gun control in the country has benefitted its corrupt leaders, not its beleaguered citizens.

Before Chavez, the ownership of guns was restricted, very controlled by the government. But when Chavez arrived, he eliminated completely your right to have a gun. So it’s very difficult to really enjoy your own self-defense if you have no weapons. At the moment, Maduro is supported by maybe 15% of the population. The other 85% do not support the Maduro regime. But the great problem is that 15% has 100% of the guns. Politicians protect the socialist regime by eliminating the right to have guns.

Now, Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez didn’t immediately eliminate the right to have a gun after taking power. He issued several gun control decgrees, each more restrictive than the last, before finally outlawing the sale and possession of firearms in 2012, when Caracas was one of the most violent cities in the world.  In fact, he stated reason for the ban was to reduce crime. You’ll never guess what happened next.

Like other gun bans, this proved futile in fighting crime. According to the Venezuelan Violence Observatory’s statistics, Venezuela’s murder rate increased from 73 murders per 100,000 people in 2012 to 91.8 murders per 100,000 people in 2016.

Even though crime went up, not down, after the ban was put in place, there’s been no move by Chavez’s successor Nicholas Madurdo to undo the ban. Why would he? He got what he really wanted; a disarmed citizenry. Clearly Maduro doesn’t care much about public safety, or the public’s ability to eat, have electricity, jobs, or anything else. He cares about his safety, and now not only is he protected by at least the majority of the Venezuelan military, he’s protected by the colectivos, the gang members that are the boots-on-the-ground enforcement of the regime in the country’s poorest neighborhoods. They kept their guns, and they, along with other pro-Maduro forces, have actually been given arms by the Maduro regime.

Raphael Acevedo is right when he says that politicians protect the socialist regime by eliminating the right to have guns. Despots and dictators fear armed citizens. They don’t empower them. Ask my friend Gabby Franco, who left Venezuela several years ago in order to live in freedom, not under the yoke of oppression. Even an Olympic shooter like herself would have faced disarmament if she had stayed in Venezuela. Thankfully Gabby and Raphael Acevedo are here now, free to speak their mind as well as free to keep and bear their privately owned arms.