If you were to think of dangerous countries, El Salvador may seem like a surprise appearance on the list. However, when this country, with less than half the population of the Los Angeles metropolitan area (6.3 million to 13.1 million), manages to see 22 murders a day, it is arguably the most dangerous country in the world not currently wracked by war.
El Salvador is no stranger to violence – having been wracked by a civil war for over twelve years between a military government and communist guerillas. But this wave of violence tops what the country saw from 1979 to 1992. A March report by the Los Angeles Times noted that MS-13 and a major rival, Barrio 18 (also known as the 18th Street Gang), had resumed fighting in 2014 after a truce collapsed. The two gangs have also been dealing with massive internal fighting.
The country has become almost desperate to control the violence. In March, Reuters reported that the country’s president was considering new restrictions on personal freedoms, including freedom of assembly and the right to travel, in order to address the country’s spiraling crime problem. Earlier this week, VOA reported that the government was putting together a special unit, the Fuerza Especial de Reacción El Salvador, consisting of at least 1,000 personnel, including commandos from the army and elite officers of the Policia Nacional Civil. The unit is heavily-armed, reportedly using armored vehicles, assault rifles, and helicopters to go after 100 of the country’s worst criminals and to neutralize criminal gangs, like MS-13, who have at least 20,000 members in the Central American country.
There’s been no mention in coverage of El Salvador’s crime wave about gun control. Probably because the laws there, in some aspects, are a gun-grabber’s dream. In 1999, El Salvador passed tough gun control legislation. Among provisions of the law were the requirement to get a license that has to be renewed every three years, private citizens can only buy one gun every two years, firearms are registered, and there is no constitutional protection of the right to keep and bear arms. The legislation has not had the effects that those who support strict gun laws in the United States would like to advertise.
According to GunPolicy.org, 1,863 people were killed in firearms-related incidents of all types the year that the new gun law was passed. A decade later, despite the law, the death toll was 3,042, or an average of 25 people over a three-day period. Today, the murder rate now averages almost one person per hour. Once again, it appears that passing strict gun laws have had no effect on violent crime, but have left far too many helpless as murder has skyrocketed.