Brazil's history illustrates gun law's failures

AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

Brazil isn’t the United States. They don’t really have their own version of the Second Amendment and guns have been restricted there for ages.

Violent crime has been horrendous there for ages, too.


However, some history–both recent and more distant–can shed some interesting light on violent crime.

“Lives are on the line,” President Biden said after the Supreme Court held New York state’s restrictive gun-permit regime unconstitutional last week. Gov. Kathy Hochul warned: “This could place millions of New Yorkers in harm’s way.” Brazil’s experience suggests otherwise.

In 2018, the year before Jair Bolsonaro became president, Brazil had one of the highest homicide rates among developed countries: 27.8 per 100,000 people, compared with 5 per 100,000 in the U.S. Mr. Bolsonaro’s solution: “Give guns to good people. Let people have guns so that they have the chance to defend themselves.”

In Brazil black-market firearms are widely available to criminals, and 70% of murders in 2019 involved guns. When Mr. Bolsonaro took office, there were about 330,000 licensed firearm owners in Brazil. At the time, according to the BBC, “only strictly defined groups of people, including police and security officials are able to obtain a gun license.” In 2019, when Mr. Bolsonaro’s many changes began taking effect, Brazil added more than 400,000 licensed firearm owners.


Of course, many argued that Bolsonaro was wrong to do so. They claimed violent crime, particularly homicides would soar under Bolsonaro’s actions.

So what actually happened?

Instead of surging, crime declined sharply in Brazil. In three years under Mr. Bolsonaro, the homicide rate has fallen 34%, to 18.5 per 100,000.

Now, understand, that’s still roughly twice was it was here during the violent 1990s. However, when the problem is that bad, the term “better” becomes relative.

A homicide rate of 18.5 is most definitely better than 27.8 by anyone’s standards.

And this was after Brazil liberalized its gun laws. This effort more than doubled the number of guns in civilian hands and we see a massive drop in homicides. If, as gun control advocates claim, more guns equate to more crime, then why isn’t that the case?

The best-case scenario for them is that the situation is just a bit more complicated than that while the worst-case scenario is that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

The numbers are pretty clear here.


Now, I will acknowledge that correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, but if gun control advocates were to be believed, the correlation would clearly go the other direction. The fact that it doesn’t is, at a minimum, a clear indication of just how wrong they were.

Of course, don’t expect gun control supporters to accept this. In fact, I’d lay money they won’t even acknowledge it, though I would actually look forward to reading any attempt to explain it. Mostly because poking holes in those arguments would be amusing as hell for me personally.

Ultimately, the takeaway here is what it is. You can try and rationalize it all you want, but this is clear evidence that more guns do not equate to more crime.

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