Uruguay, under the current administration, has garnered a reputation for its "thinking outside the box" approach to leadership, and it's gotten results. Now, in an quirky effort to reduce the number of firearms in circulation, the government is again trying something new, offering citizens to turn in their unregistered guns in exchange for something infinitely more amusing -- a shiny new bike.
Or, as Uruguay's Interior Ministry puts it, the tradeoff is "Weapons for Life".
This creative initiative, which launched this week, is in response to the prevalence of illegal firearms and rising rates of homicides. The small South American nation, known for its quaintness, ranks 9th in number of guns per capita in the world. More than a million firearms are in the hands of the country's 3.3 million residents, and half of those are unregistered.
"These are the same weapons that, sometimes and for various reasons (sale, theft, etc.), can be prevented from entering the market for use by criminals," says the Interior Ministry.
But instead of following the 'gun buyback' model that's been implemented in the United States and Australia as a way of getting guns off the street, Uruguay's "Weapons for Life" program is taking a different approach that might improve society even more. Instead of getting cash, residents turning in their unregistered weapons will each receive either a new bicycle or a low-end computer.
"We are delighted that the ministry is finally taking action on the matter and starting a campaign to discourage gun ownership," says Guidobono Gustavo, president of the Association for the Civilian Disarmament. "Effecting this change by using computers or bicycles is unprecedented, but it is welcome."
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