Giving Brazilians More Access To Guns Won't Reduce Violent Deaths, Evidence Shows

Bolsonaro promised during his campaign to reform Brazilian law to allow citizens to have broader access to guns for self-defense

Fernanda Mena

Daniel Cerqueira, an economist at the Instituto for Applied Economic Research, in Brasília, is the country's foremost researcher on the impact on deaths by gun violence caused by the restrictions imposed by 15-year-old Brazilian gun law.

According to his research, the law spared more than 2,000 lives from 2004 to 2007. "We saw that gun-related homicides fell from 2003, and only rose again because of new allowances in the law," he said.
It's a similar result than the one found in "More Guns, More Crime," a study by Stanford University economist Mark Duggan that deconstructed two of the biggest arguments in favor of gun ownership.

Handguns, with their plastic and wooden parts removed, are seen on the back of a truck before being burnt during the first day of a national disarmament campaign in 2011 - Associated Press

The first argument that was owning a weapon discourages criminals didn't hold water when he evaluated local laws that allowed civilians to carry guns didn't cause any reductions in the incidence of violent crimes. "It shows that the civilians decided against carrying their guns with them, or the criminals' perception didn't change," he said.

The second argument is that it's not the guns that caused more homicides, but the opposite: the rise in killings caused more people to buy guns for their protection.

The economist tried the hypothesis using a mathematical model, and if it were true, the number of guns would also grow about the number of homicides committed without firearms, which didn't happen in the real life experiment.

But there is one point where people in favor and against gun law reform seem to agree: letting people have more guns is not a public security strategy.

For Fabrício Rebelo, former director of nonprofit Movimento Viva Brasil, "reforming the gun law cannot transfer to citizens the responsibility of containing criminality."

He says it's indispensable to reinforce police and law enforcement efforts to reduce Brazilian high crime levels. "What I advocate for is giving the citizen the chance of defending himself when the State fails to do so."

Cerqueira, on the other hand, points out other reasons for the same denial of wide access to guns. "It will be a countrywide tragedy if we get an 'everything goes' new gun law."

"First, because having a gun at the house conspires against the household's safety. And second, because legal guns also conspire against public security, since many of them become either lost or stolen."

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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