BRAZIL — BEYOND REPAIR?
So how about a country that actually bans guns?
Since 2003, Brazil has come close to fitting that description. Only police, people in high-risk professions and those who can prove their lives are threatened are eligible to receive gun permits. Anyone caught carrying a weapon without a permit faces up to four years on prison.
But Brazil also tops the global list for gun murders.
According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime study in 2011, 34,678 people were murdered by firearms in Brazil in 2008, compared to 34,147 in 2007. The numbers for both years represent a homicide-by-firearm rate of 18 per 100,000 inhabitants — more than five times higher than the U.S. rate.
Violence is so endemic in Brazil that few civilians would even consider trying to arm themselves for self-defense. Vast swaths of cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are slums long dominated by powerful drug gangs, who are often better armed than the police. Brazilian officials admit guns flow easily over the nation's long, porous Amazon jungle border.
Still, Guaracy Mingardi, a crime and public safety expert and researcher at Brazil's top think tank, Fundacao Getulio Vargas, said the 2003 law helped make a dent in homicides by firearms in some areas.
According to the Sao Paulo State Public Safety Department, the homicide rate there was 28.29 per 100,000 in 2003 and dropped to 10.02 per 100,000 in 2011.
Brazil wants more powerful guns in the hands of police. This month, the army authorized law enforcement officers to carry heavy caliber weapons for personal use.
Ligia Rechenberg, coordinator of the Sou da Paz, or "I am for Peace," violence prevention group, thinks that could make things worse. She said police will buy weapons that "they don't know how to handle, and that puts them and the population at risk."