Experts "puzzled" by drop in Brazil's homicide rate amidst rise in gun ownership

Experts "puzzled" by drop in Brazil's homicide rate amidst rise in gun ownership
(AP Photo/Andre Penner)

Former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro made loosening the nation’s restrictive gun control laws one of his administration’s top priorities, much to the chagrin of anti-gun advocates who warned that the country’s already sky-high homicide rates would get even worse if average citizens could keep and (in some cases) carry a firearm for self-defense.


As it turns out, the opposite has happened, with homicide rates declining to the lowest level in more than a decade, and now the Associated Press reports that “experts are puzzled” by the fact that more guns hasn’t resulted in more crime.

About 47,500 people were slain in Latin America’s largest nation in 2022, said a report Thursday by the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, an independent group that tracks crimes. Its statistics are widely used as a benchmark because there are no official statistics on a national level.

While the number of killings in 2022 was down 2.4% from the previous year, it remained roughly even with levels recorded since 2019. The last time Brazil had less violent deaths was in 2011, with 47,215 killings.

The fall in homicides has left many public security experts somewhat puzzled, as it has been accompanied by a sharp increase in the number of firearms held by Brazilians. Some studies have suggested that more guns circulating among the population lead to more homicides.

During his 2019-2022 term, then President Jair Bolsonaro worked to loosen regulations on gun ownership. The number of firearms registered with the Federal Police reached 1.5 million in 2022, up 47.5% from 2019.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who took office in January, has sought to undo Bolsonaro’s pro-gun policies. Days after coming to power, Lula required gun owners to register their weapons with police, and the government has said it will present new legislation Friday.


My prediction? Get ready to see crime back on the upswing, as criminals start to feel more emboldened by the crackdown on legal gun ownership.

Meanwhile, the “experts” that the AP spoke to are twisting themselves in knots to come up with theories about why violent crime dropped as gun ownership became more common.

Samira Bueno, executive director of the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, said he feels the main factor is the relative truce among gangs since 2018. An explosion of violence in 2017, when his group registered 63,880 killings, was largely attributed to a rivalry between the First Capital Command gang and the Red Command gang.

Carolina Ricardo, director of the Instituto Sou da Paz, a non-profit group that monitors public security, said another factor is that more Brazilian states have implemented ambitious public security policies along with social measures such as working to keep children in school.

Brazil’s aging population could be a third factor, Ricardo said. “In general, who dies and kills are young people,” she said.

To be fair, all of those factors may have played a role in the drop in homicides, but according to the tenets of gun control all of that should have been offset by the simple fact that there were more guns around. For the anti-gunners more guns equals more crime, period.


Brazil’s gun laws were never all that relaxed, even at the height of the Bolsonaro administration, and the homicide rate is still far above that of the United States. But that was also the case before Bolsonaro took office and it was almost impossible for the average citizen to possess a firearm for self-defense. Now that Lula is in power and is moving the country’s gun laws backwards, let’s see what happens to the homicide rate. If it starts to climb again, expect these same experts to once again come up with all kinds of reasons why the tighter restrictions on lawful gun ownership aren’t to blame and why the country needs to further crack down on the gun owners who aren’t committing crimes in the first place.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member