Jair Bolsonaro
Former president Jair Bolsonaro's term saw efforts to loosen regulations on gun ownership, leading to a substantial rise in registered firearms. Photo by: AFP/Mauro Pimentel

Brazilian researchers have reported that the number of violent deaths in the country reached its lowest level in over a decade.

This finding has puzzled some experts, as there has been a significant increase in the circulation of firearms in recent years.

According to a report released by the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, an independent organization that tracks crimes and is widely used as a benchmark due to the lack of official national statistics, approximately 47,500 people were killed in Brazil in 2022.

This represents a 2.4% decrease from the previous year's figures but remained relatively stable compared to levels recorded since 2019.

The last time Brazil recorded a lower number of violent deaths was in 2011 when the total reached 47,215 killings.

The decline in homicides in Brazil despite a significant increase in the number of firearms held by the population has left many public security experts puzzled.

President Jair Bolsonaro's term saw efforts to loosen regulations on gun ownership, leading to a substantial rise in registered firearms, reaching 1.5 million in 2022, up 47.5% from 2019.

In contrast, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who took office in January, has sought to reverse Bolsonaro's pro-gun policies.

New legislation requiring gun owners to register their weapons with the police was introduced shortly after Lula assumed office.

Experts have proposed several reasons to explain this dual trend. Samira Bueno, executive director of the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, believes that the main factor is the relative truce among gangs since 2018.

A surge in violence in 2017, when the group recorded 63,880 killings, was largely attributed to a feud between rival gangs, the First Capital Command and the Red Command, AP News reported.

Carolina Ricardo, director of Instituto Sou da Paz, a non-profit organization monitoring public security, suggests that another contributing factor is the implementation of ambitious public security policies and social measures in more Brazilian states.

Such measures include efforts to keep children in school, potentially leading to positive societal changes that may have influenced the reduction in violent deaths.

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

But Ricardo also expressed concern about the prevalence of homicides using firearms.

"Although homicides have not increased, the percentage of deaths by firearms in Brazil is still very high," she said.

According to Thursday's report, firearms were responsible for 77% of all homicides last year. Ricardo said that is much higher than the world average of around 44%.

Despite the decline in homicides, the report highlights concerning trends in violence against women in Brazil.

Incidents of violence against women, including rape and feminicides, have risen, with a record number of reported rapes as defined by Brazilian law.

The legal definition of rape in Brazil is broader than that of the United States, and it does not necessarily require sexual penetration.

In 2022, there were nearly 15,000 reported cases of rape, marking an 8.2% increase from the previous year. Shockingly, nearly two-thirds of the victims were children aged 13 or younger, indicating the severity of the issue and its impact on vulnerable populations.

Additionally, feminicides, the killings of women because of their gender, rose by 6%, with a total of 1,437 recorded cases.

The situation is particularly concerning in Rio de Janeiro, where Roberto Camara has witnessed the increase in violence against women firsthand.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.