In the wake of last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, gun control advocates have pushed for America to toughen its gun laws to bring them more in line with those in other developed nations.
Such advocates need look no further than Brazil, a nation that is generally comparable to the United States in both population (326 million people in the U.S., 210 million in Brazil) and economic status (The U.S. has the world's largest economy, Brazil has the eighth largest).
Yet the two nations differ in one key aspect--their treatment of guns.
In Brazil, no one under the age of 25 is allowed to own a firearm. Firearm registration is mandatory. The "carrying of firearms throughout the national territory is prohibited," except for "members of the Armed Forces," members of the municipal guards" of Brazil's states and largest municipalities, members of the police forces...prison officers and guards," and "members of private security and securities transport companies set up pursuant to" Law 10.826, Brazil's 2003 gun law.
This effectively means that no private citizens can legally carry their guns outside of their homes. And just to keep a gun in a private citizen's home, he or she must purchase a relatively expensive gun license, register it with local authorities, and pay a fee every three years to keep that license current.
In 2005, the Brazilian government cracked down even further--seizing firearms from citizens whom it determined did not need to own them. As Brazil's Agência Câmara reported:
The current disarmament campaign, begun May 6, has already collected some 5,000 weapons. To authorize the possession of a weapon, [the Government] developed a strict interpretation of the concept of "effective necessity." For example, long-barreled weapons are denied for those who live in the city, nor is anyone authorized to possess a registered weapon.
This concept of "effective necessity," it should be noted, does not include self-defense. The Brazilian government determined that since there were adequate numbers of police, military, and other protective service agency personnel protecting the country's populace, individual citizens had no need to own their own firearms to protect themselves.
America could learn something from Brazil, right? After all, these strict regulations have resulted in a dramatic decrease in private gun ownership in Brazil. It's estimated that there are just 17 million guns in Brazil, a country with a population of 201 million, compared with a whopping 330-345 million guns in the United States, a total that eclipses the U.S. population of 326 million.
Brazil, though, is also among the world's leaders in firearm-related deaths, with 21.2 per 100,000 people. The United States has about half as many: 10.54 per 100,000. In the U.S., though, the overwhelming majority (roughly two-thirds) of the 33,000 annual gun deaths are in suicides. Not so in Brazil: Almost all of the roughly 40,000 gun deaths each year are homicides. In 2016, Brazil saw 19.34 violent gun deaths per 100,000 people, while the United States had just 3.85 per 100,000.
This means that in spite of Brazil's dramatically tougher gun laws and dramatically fewer guns in private hands, it still has dramatically more gun deaths, violent gun deaths, deaths per capita, and violent gun deaths per capita.
This also means that Brazil really does have something to teach America about the effectiveness of the policies that America's gun control advocates are pushing.