Gun Control 2013: What Can America Learn From Brazil's Gun Laws?

A minority of legislators in Brazil's parliament have begun to rekindle the South American country's more than decade-long gun control debate. It's an issue that reveals some striking similarities between Brazil's and the United States's gun policies.

In both countries, the topic of gun control at first may appear to be quite polarizing (i.e. "guns kill people" versus "the government is trying to take away our guns"). But in reality, both sides can make strong arguments for their respective beliefs. Oftentimes, these contentious issues regarding guns aren't as cut and dry as one might assume.

Similar to some legislators in the U.S., pro-gun politicians in Brazil, many of whose campaigns were funded by the gun industry, have rallied a small but vocal sect of the public behind legislation that chips away at gun control laws.

Both American and Brazilian pro-gun activists contend that gun regulation limits the essential right of a citizen to bear arms. Both countries' groups argue that a well-armed militia is a public's last line of defense against government corruption, and that the regulation of guns would only develop a black market system of arm sales that would put guns into the hands of criminals rather than families looking to defend themselves.

Many pro-gun advocates point to the black market sale of drugs from Mexico to the United States as an example of when the criminalization of a desired good leads to underground wars between rival merchants and law enforcement agencies.

Advocates of gun control, on the other hand, simply point to the fact that the regulation of arms has decreased the homicide rate in both Brazil and the United States.

While the United States' annual firearm homicide rate hovers around three deaths per 100,000 people, the U.S. figure pales in comparison to Brazil's annual number of 18.1 deaths per 100,000 citizens.  That said, the number of gun related homicides in Brazil dropped by 2,000 in 2004 as a likely result of gun regulation.

Many from educated, liberal backgrounds have an instant reaction to disregard the pro-gun mentality as an irrational fear of an oversized government's overbearing on true American values, but there are legitimate fears regarding the black market sale of ammunition.

One would also be hard pressed to disregard the cold statistics, which demonstrate that gun prevention, in a very direct way, has been shown to reduce homicide rates and save lives.

In the cases of both the Brazilian and American gun debates, arguments that belittle and disregard the other side do nothing but widen the gap between those in favor and those against gun control.

To truly create smart gun legislation in The United States as well as Brazil, open and honest debate between dissenting opinions is our only chance at making progress.

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David Ashland

David Ashland is an Applied Linguistics graduate with a minor in Spanish from Portland State University, a recipient of the Gilman international exchange student scholarship award and a travel enthusiast.

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