Monday, July 24, 2023

Increase in Private Firearm Ownership in Brazil, Homicide Rate Decreases



During his election campaign, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro vowed to amend the demanding rules of the Brazilian law on gun ownership and use. AmmoLand reported a decline in homicide rates to less than 20 per 100,000 people in early 2020. The Wilson Center, a progressive research organization, noted an increase in lawful private gun ownership from roughly 1.3 million in 2018 to nearly 3 million in 2022.

There are arguments stating that the rise in armed citizens does not contribute to the fall in the homicide rate. The Wilson Center pointed out that while gun registrations saw an increase of around 80% during Bolsonaro's term from 2019 to 2022, experts deny that this increase or Bolsonaro's pro-gun stance led to the decrease in homicides in the same period. 

When examining the Wilson Center's data, the total number of legally owned private firearms rose by approximately 127%, from 1.3 million to almost 3 million, including those owned by service members. Excluding service members' firearms, the numbers rose from about .65 million to 2.25 million, marking a 246% increase. The 80% increase would only make sense when considering permits issued in the first year of Bolsonaro's term, post his decree initiating this rise.

During Bolsonaro's term, legal private gun ownership increased considerably, and homicide rates drastically decreased. The rate fell from nearly 31 per 100,000 in 2017 to 19 in 2022, the lowest level since 1994.

According to a report by the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, approximately 47,500 people were murdered in 2022 in Brazil. The number of killings in 2022 decreased by 2.4% from the previous year, maintaining a level consistent with the rates recorded since 2019.

However, comparisons using raw numbers without considering the growing Brazilian population can be misleading. It's more accurate to compare homicide rates, not the raw numbers. Using the numbers provided by AP, the rate in 2011 was 23.8 per 100,000, significantly higher than the calculated 22 per 100,000 for 2022. 

Various sources indicate that the homicide rate fell between 1 - 2.4% in 2021, leading to a rate of approximately 19.2 to 19.5 in 2021. The rates for the previous years were: 30.69 in 2017, 26.72 in 2018, 20.88 in 2019, and 22.45 in 2020. So, not only did the homicide rate decrease, it remained at about 70% of its peak level. The homicide rate in Brazil hasn't been this low since 1994, before the first effective restrictive firearms regulation was implemented in 1997.

Many experts had forecasted a sharp rise in the homicide rate with the increase in firearm ownership. However, their predictions proved incorrect. According to a 2019 report by Ammoland, experts had predicted a 2% increase in the murder rate for each 1% increase in the number of circulating firearms. However, the number of legal firearms more than doubled, and the murder rate and total number of homicides fell sharply. There's no correlation between rates of legal or illegal firearms ownership and regulation with homicide rates.

One reason the experts' forecasts may have been incorrect is that their assumptions that more guns lead to more homicides proved false. This has been demonstrated in many countries, including now Brazil.

During Bolsonaro's term, the restrictions on gun laws were reformed, leading to increased legal private ownership and carry of firearms, and a sharp decrease in the murder rate.

The newly elected, far-left President Lula is now striving to reverse Bolsonaro's gun reforms. He contends that guns should only be in the hands of the police and federal armed forces, not in the arsenals of citizens. 

Even though Brazil has fewer firearms compared to the United States, its homicide rate was five to six times higher at its peak. Under Bolsonaro, the Brazilian homicide rate fell, while under President Biden, the US homicide rate increased. Brazil's rate is now about three times the US rate. Brazil's firearms ownership rate is only about 1% of the US rate, yet the country's homicide rate is significantly higher. This suggests that the number of owned firearms doesn't significantly affect a country's homicide rate. 

The decrease in Brazil's homicide rate indicates that potential criminals may adjust their behavior when they are aware that more citizens are likely to be armed.

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