Brazil’s President announces preparing new laws to make it easier to carry guns in public

21 Apr , 2019  

“The citizen deserves to have the means to defend himself, respecting the referendum of 2005, when he chose, at the polls, the right to self-defense.” From President Bolsonaro’s inaugural address, Tuesday, January 1, 2019.

Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro just announced on April 20th that his government is preparing new laws to make it much easier for Brazilians to carry guns in public.

“You can be sure the bums will think twice before committing a crime, knowing that someone might be armed,” [Bolsonaro] said.

In 2003, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva with the Workers’ Party enacted extensive measures that banned ordinary citizens from carrying guns. The law effectively banned the civilian purchase of guns, giving federal police the right to reject applications for gun ownership for any reason. As shown below, as a result of that law probably only about 0.0757% of non-police Brazilians own a gun.

During the election last year, Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro campaigned reverse those regulations. In January, Bolsonaro signed an executive order making it easier for Brazilians to own guns and help people defend themselves.

The decree established a wide range of categories of who qualifies for gun ownership, and government officials said it was crafted to cover just about any citizen wanting a firearm.

The categories include citizens living in rural areas, in urban areas with high levels of homicide, business owners, gun collectors and hunters. Prospective gun owners must still meet other requirements, such as not having a criminal record, taking a psychological exam, a course at a gun club and being at least 25 years old. . . .

The decree could only go so far. The law needs to be changed by the Brazilian National Congress. With Brazil’s incredibly high homicide rate of over 30 per 100,000 people, the country’s strict gun control obviously hasn’t worked.

The Data

There are only about 330,000 licensed firearm owners in Brazil. With 209.3 million people and an adult population over 18 of about 152.3 million, that’s just 0.22 percent of the adult population. According to the BBC, “only strictly defined groups of people, including police and security officials are able to obtain a gun license.”

Despite these extremely strict gun control laws, Brazil had 64,357 homicides in 2017—a rate of  30.8 per 100,000 people. However, there appears to be a real problem with officially reported homicide numbers in Brazil. The UN normally just relies uncritically on data provided to them by individual countries, but their homicide number for 2012 is much higher than the official number (65,752 v 57,045, rate 32.8 v 28.5).

From Reuters in January:

Federal Police data shows that just over 646,000 legally-purchased arms are in circulation in Brazil. About half of those weapons are registered to private citizens. The rest are held by security personnel. . . .

The average licensed gun owner had about 1.96 guns. In 2014, there were about 436,514 police in Brazil. If half the licenses are for security personnel, that gives a licensing rate of non-security personnel for the non-law enforcement share of the adult population of just 0.0757%.

The huge differences in the homicide rate data leave real questions about how homicide rates have changed over time. The one thing that is clear is that Brazil has a very high homicide rate.


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