Venezuela has banned sales of guns and ammunition in a measure aimed at fighting rampant violent crime.

Private gun shops are prohibited from selling guns under the measure that took effect Friday.

Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami says only the police and the military will be exempt from the ban on gun sales.

Critics say that only a small percentage of guns have recently been sold legally to permit holders and that most gun sales have long been illegal and unregulated.

Luis Izquiel is a lawyer who heads a security committee for Venezuela's opposition coalition. He says that while there are about 25,000 gun permits legally registered with the authorities, there are many more guns on the streets.