Brazil has one of the highest murder rates in the world and also, surprisingly, some of the world’s strictest gun laws. What is Brazil’s current firearm policy and how can the United States learn from it?
In 2003, the National Congress of Brazil passed some of the most restrictive anti-firearm laws in modern geo-political history. This group of regulations, known collectively as the “Disarmament Statute,” requires every existing firearm in the country be licensed and registered with the Brazilian government. To obtain a license, applicants must be at least 25 years old, have no criminal history, provide proof of a steady job, receive firearms training, and pass a psychological exam. Assuming the applicant meets these strenuous requirements, the applicant may be granted a license at the discretion of police after the applicant shows a “need” to be armed. Once licensed, Brazilians may only possess their self-defense weapon at home or at their place of work.
So how are these ultra-restrictive regulations impacting Brazil? Surprisingly, murder and violent crime in Brazil are going up, not down. In 2017, Brazil set a new record-high murder rate—30.8 murders per 100,000 persons. (For comparison, the United States has roughly 5 murders per 100,000 persons.)
Fortunately, Brazilians may soon see changes in the country’s firearm laws. Brazil’s newly elected President, Jair Bolsonaro, campaigned on loosening firearm restrictions in order to combat the country’s skyrocketing violence. The new President argues that criminals will be less likely to commit violent crime if their would-be victims could be armed. Pro-gun Brazilians hope to see President Bolsonaro’s policies signed into law sometime in early 2019.
In the United States, states such as Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and California boast similarly restrictive anti-gun legislation with less than boastful rates of violent crime. That the rate of gun violence is not lower in these states than the rest of the country is popularly blamed on guns flowing in from neighboring states with more lenient laws. Brazil’s woes indicate that this line of thinking is flawed.
Nearly all the firearms used in Brazil’s murders are ones which were initially purchased legally in Brazil and not trafficked in from a more permissive locale. U.S. lawmakers should look to Brazil to understand the probable consequences of strict gun control regulation, in which criminals happily obtain firearms by illegal means while law-abiding citizens remain disarmed, creating easier and more tempting targets for violent crime.
Author: Emily William Taylor
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