Republican Gun Confiscation

by Ed Sawicki

Sao Tome Principe map

In 2004, the Republican Party dominated the U.S. government's Executive and Legislative branches. George W. Bush was president, Dennis Hastert was Speaker of the House, and Bill Frist was Senate Majority Leader. They presided over a firearms confiscation program resulting in a homicide rate reduction of 7.7 times!

Yes, this happened—but the guns were not taken away from U.S. citizens. The guns were taken away from the citizens of Sao Tome, an African island nation in the Gulf of Guinea.

In February of 2004, U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Moorefield asked the U.S. Trade and Development Agency to grant Sao Tome money so they could reduce their crime rate. The country had a largely agricultural economy based on cocoa, and wanted to become an oil exporter via a joint venture with Nigeria. They were granted about US$800,000 by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. The grant was to, among other things, collect firearms from Sao Tome citizens and destroy them.

How effective was the gun confiscation program in Sao Tome?

In 2004, the homicide rate was 5.4 per 100,000 people. In 2005, after the guns were confiscated, the homicide rate went down to 0.7 per 100,000 people—a 7.7 times reduction!

The Assistant General Counsel of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, M. Greg Braswell, reminded me that while Congress approves the agency's budget, it does not approve individual grants. So, Congress was likely unaware of the gun confiscation program in Sao Tome. If they had known, would the NRA-controlled Congress have allowed the grant?

Additional reading

São Tomé e Príncipe: The difficult transition from aid-dependent cocoa producer to petrol state

Wikipedia: United States Trade and Development Agency