Argentina’s National Programme: Surrender of Firearms
Argentina’s National Programme for the Voluntary Surrender of Firearms: Recognising a link between disarmament, health and the economy, Law No. 26.216 paved the way for a highly successful voluntary and anonymous firearm and ammunition buyback. Not only does the policy aim to reduce the number of firearms in circulation, it also promotes a culture of non-violence and peaceful conflict resolution as a primary objective following a collective campaign on the issue by civil society groups.
In 2013, the World Future Council awarded Argentina’s National Programme for the Voluntary Surrender of Firearms with a Silver Future Policy Award, which was held on the theme of disarmament, in partnership with the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The award was presented on October 23, 2013 at a ceremony held at the UN Headquarters in New York.
The World Future Council is working to transfer some of the innovative and effective elements of Argentina’s policy to other countries and regions. In 2014, the World Future Council joined the ‘Choose Life Without Weapons‘ coalition led by UNDP Bosnia-Herzegovina to bring together policy-makers and stakeholders to share experiences and practices of weapon collection. In 2015, representatives of both projects met in Sarajevo to continue this collaboration at an ‘Arms Control Exchange.’
Further information on the Argentinian policy, in the Bosnian language, can be found here.
- The programme consists of a voluntary and anonymous surrender of firearms and ammunition, commonly referred to as a “buyback” due to the financial incentive offered in return.
- Collaboration with the Argentine National Bank resulted in an innovative form of payment to guarantee anonymity. Other measures of trust include the immediate destruction of guns in front of the surrenderer and a close involvement of civil society.
- Public campaigns, education and social media give the programme high visibility and have especially reached out to women and children.
- The promotion of a culture of peace is an explicit objective of the programme to promote non-violent means of conflict resolution.
Ley N° 26.216 Programa Nacional de Entrega Voluntaria de Armas de Fuego y Municiones [National Programme for the Voluntary Surrender of Firearms], 2006. [Spanish]
Resolución 249/11 Aprobación de la escala de valores del incentivo por la entrega voluntaria y anónima de armas de fuego y municiones del Programa Nacional de Entrega Voluntaria de Armas de Fuego [Approval of the scale of incentive values for the anonymous voluntary surrender of firearms and ammunition under the National Voluntary Surrender of Firearms], 2011. [Spanish]
Ley N° 26.919 Nuevo plazo de ejecución del Programa Nacional de Entrega Voluntaria de Armas de Fuego [New Period of Execution of the National Voluntary Surrender of Firearms], 2013. [Spanish]
This law mandates a voluntary and anonymous gun and ammunition buyback where weapons are exchanged at mobile reception centres against a financial incentive. It has demonstrated what can be achieved when civil society works together, and in partnership with the government, to achieve societal reform, winning the Silver Future Policy Award in 2013.
A highly successful policy, it has reduced the number of civilian firearms in Argentina by over 10%. From the pioneering anonymous payment model to the recycling of meltdown materials with the donation of any profits to a children’s hospital, the policy has met all seven principles of future-just lawmaking. The programme has also excelled in terms of public outreach with campaigns discussing domestic violence, primarily aimed at women, as well as educational activities aimed at children.
Measures of trust and transparency have been built into the law with a regular system of reporting and civil society consultation. With the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights ultimately responsible for programme implementation, a more holistic approach has been employed to build a culture of peace with a public health, rather than military or defence-based, approach.
Innovative improvements to the policy model are ongoing and include the suggestion of a tax on gun manufacturers that would go directly into the healthcare system. Nonetheless, a permanent implementation of the National Programme could be deemed beneficial over annual renewal dependant on political will.
Our “Best Policies” are those which meet the Future-Just Lawmaking Principles and recognise that interrelated challenges require interconnected solutions. The World Future Council’s unique research and analysis ensures that important universal standards of sustainability and equity, human rights and freedoms, and respect for the environment are coherently considered by policy-makers.
Sustainable use of natural resources
- Once firearms and ammunition have been surrendered, the destruction process uses environmentally friendly methods with meltdown materials sold and waste material recycled.
Equity and poverty eradication
- The financial incentive of the buyback is considered an important amount to some sectors of society. It was revised in 2011 to reflect the increasing cost of living.
- Mobile reception points visit local communities to collect firearms facilitating the process and avoiding travel expenditure.
- Any profit made from the destruction and recycling process is donated to the Garrahan Pediatric Hospital.
- A “Federal Prize” for the improvement of sports facilities is awarded to the municipality that destroys the most weapons per capita.
- The public health approach of this policy emphasises the economic consequences of death and disability resulting from armed violence and accident.
- Public awareness campaigns focus on the risks of simply having a gun in the home including their potential use in incidents of domestic violence.
- Specific activities are aimed at children to educate them on the risks surrounding firearms and are run in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. One such activity involved swopping toy guns for toys of peace.
- A public awareness campaign through the television and press, with an 0800 number opened for public inquiries and questions, is part of the programme’s outreach.
- As well as having a dedicated website, the National Programme also has a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter (@Plandedesarme) and Youtube.
- This was a policy driven and designed by civil society which managed to link different jurisdictions and contributed a great amount of “know-how.”
- Article 18 of the law continues this civil society consultation via an Interagency Firearm Policy Coordination Committee which also includes firearms experts.
- Surrendered firearms are disabled on the spot, and in front of the person handing over the weapon, in order to reduce any danger of theft or corruption and to ensure transparency and public trust.
- The policy is subject to regular audits and all information regarding the destruction of arms is published in Argentina’s official gazette and online.
- The jurisdiction of the programme supervisory body, Registro Nacional de Armas (RENAR), was transferred first from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Interior to reflect the domestic nature of armed violence.
- The current programme is overseen by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.
- Initially approved by Congress with the sole opposition of the most conservative right, the policy has been renewed unanimously on an annual basis.
- The law declared a national state of emergency to facilitate implementation of the policy.
- The Federal Police, Army and Security Forces are obliged to carry out an inventory of their arsenals and publicly report any discrepancy to Congress on a quarterly basis.
- A public report is produced which details the firearms received and destroyed.
- Promotion of a culture of peace is an explicit objective of the policy and promotes non-violent conflict resolution.
- Where local government was involved in implementation, the programme has been deemed more successful.
- Socio-economic benefits are present in the reduction of firearms-related disabilities, homicides and suicides, yet causality is difficult to prove.
- An Interagency Firearm Policy Coordination Committee exists to link government, legislature and academia as well as a Consultative Civil Society Council which promotes relevant research and the exchange of best practice.
- The role of women is considered, even if they constitute the minority of gun users or owners, as they are potential victims when a gun is used to threaten or attack, especially during incidents of domestic violence.
- A joint resolution was recently signed between RENAR and the Ministry of Safety establishing that in case of allegations of domestic violence, gun ownership will be withdrawn.
- Children are involved as part of the awareness-raising campaign with educational activites.
Following an incident in which a 15 year old school boy opened fire at school near Buenos Aires, killing three classmates and injuring five, the Argentine Disarmament Network (RAD) was formed in 2004 in order to create a network for multiple civil society organisations working on armed violence.
In 2006, further tragedy occurred when a mentally ill, yet legitimate gun owner, opened fire in central Buenos Aires injuring six and killing Alfredo Marcenac, a young student. The public outcry which followed led to RAD presenting a proposal to reduce the number of guns in circulation to the Interior Ministry of Argentina (the then responsible agency).
President Néstor Kirchner met with RAD who, realising the extent of the armed violence problem, declared a National State of Emergency under the first article of Law 26.216 and granted his strong support to the National Programme. Overall, the law recognises a link between disarmament, health and economy and chooses to classify violence as an increasingly important health problem in Argentina.
Law 26.216, Article 4:
- A decrease in the use and proliferation of firearms and ammunition.
- A reduction in accidents and violence caused by the access and use of firearms.
- Increasing awareness of the risks of owning and using weapons.
- To promote a culture of non-violence and peaceful conflict resolution to discourage the possession and use of firearms.
The following video lays out the four principle steps of the programme’s implementation:
Firstly, firearms are surrendered voluntarily and anonymously at a reception centre in exchange for a financial incentive. The incentive is paid by a special cheque created in collaboration with the Argentine National Bank to guarantee anonymity and build trust. Debt forgiveness vis-à-vis RENAR exists for legitimate firearms owners who surrender their weapons owing fines.
The firearms are immediately destroyed in front of the surrenderer, another aspect which increases trust with regards to the weapons being disabled. Donated firearms are destroyed and melted down, with material recycled where possible, and any profit is donated to the Garrahan Children’s Hospital.
The creation of a public awareness campaign on the risks of owning firearms and an 0-800 number for the answering of questions have been important to the programme’s success. Women and children have also been targeted with specific appeals and educational activities.
The initial phase of the programme, as mandated by Law 26.216, was deemed a clear success, with one news report stating that “the government and civil society groups involved in the initiative announced that it has far exceeded even the most optimistic projections.” The programme has since been renewed on an annual basis unanimously by Congress.
The disarmament programme has so far collected and destroyed more than 163,000 arms (February 2015) since its launch, from a total of around 1,400,000 registered arms. This means that over 10% of arms have been destroyed under the National Programme. One million ammunition units have also been destroyed.
A causal link is difficult to prove between programme implementation and homicide/suicide trends for example. However, an extensive analysis has been carried out by the Inter-American Development Bank which suggests that certain downward trends may be attributed to the Programme.
A reduction in criminality is not a direct goal of the programme which aims instead for a societal change towards peaceful conflict resolution and an awareness of the risks of firearm possession. Nonetheless, Argentina, alongside Chile, presents some of the lowest crime rates in Latin America.
The programme implemented by Argentina has multiple aspects which can be incorporated into a transferable model. These include taking a public health approach, the declaration of a national emergency, the revision of the financial incentive against rising costs of living and an emphasis on the role of women and children.
Furthermore, the increased guarantee of anonymity in the payment of the financial incentive was considered a particularly innovative measure and consequentially replicated in the already-existing gun buyback in Brazil. Lastly, the use of mobile reception points has been highly beneficial in reaching more remote areas and increasing municipal involvement in the implementation of the National Programme.
The lack of ‘good-condition’ requirements for firearms handed in may have been criticised but has been justified in the respect that the intention was not to create complications at the point of reception or uncertainty and conflict with gun owners. In addition, no compensation was offered for these weapons yet they were still removed from circulation.
Inter-American Development Bank. Los Planes de Recolección de Armas en Latino América [The Weapons Collection Plans in Latin America]. Prepared by Diégo M. Fleitas, August 2010.
Website of Argentina’s National Programme for the Voluntary Surrender of Firearms.
Argentina - Bosnia and Herzegovina: Arms Control Exchange.
On March 6-7, 2015, UNDP BiH and the World Future Council provided an opportunity for representatives of government, police agencies, and civil society from Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina to exchange their experiences in addressing small arms issues within their unique national contexts.