Monday, May 04, 2009

What you can learn from Brazil's gun control laws

Although I am a staunchly conservative individual, I read the New York Times daily. It has a lovely little mobile-friendly site that I can pull up on my smartphone in seconds. I stay away from the Op-Ed page unless it's written by William Kristol or Thomas Freidman, but I enjoy much of the paper's content. I like to, you know, stay on top of what they're shovelin' over there and love to discover bias in hard news stories.

One of the Times's best attributes is its penchant for doing feature stories about little known issues or places. It simply has more resources than most other outlets (although that may not continue much longer), and is able to support this kind of necessary journalism.

In yesterday's edition, I read this article entitled "Fearful Brazilians Keep Armored Car Sales Booming".

Anyone who knows anything of substance about Brazil knows that it is an extremely troubled place. It is glorified for its beautiful half naked mixed-race women and postcard worthy beaches. In reality however, Brazil is one of the most violent, crowded, and sin-infested countries on earth.

For example, did you know that Brazil's homicide rate is 4 times higher than that of the U.S.? In 2005, 55,000 Brazilians were murdered. In comparison, that is a few thousand more dead civilians than were killed in Iraq in its first three years of war.

Armed robberies, kidnappings, rapes, and other petty theft is even more rampant and oftentimes go unsolved or unreported altogether.

Going back to the Times article, ordinary citizens in Brazil's largest city, Sao Paulo, are resorting to purchasing armored cars to protect themselves. Armed thugs rob motorists as they they are trapped in in Sao Paulo's infamously clogged arteries.

People are simply not safe in the megalopolises of Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, and Sao Paulo; naturally, they fear for their lives. Sadly, the people who purchase armored Volkswagens capable of withstanding Uzi fire are acting upon necessity.

There are a myriad of causes behind Brazil's rampant violence. Latin America is just messed up by nature. The gaps between rich and poor are massive and probably always will be. With that being said, the biggest culprit here is Brazil's government itself.

Brazil has some of the toughest gun control laws in the world. In response to its warzone-like crime rates, the government implemented strict new laws in 2004 that disarmed much of the law-abiding populace. The following laws were put on the books:

1) Anyone carrying a gun without a license faces a 4 year prison sentence (good)

2) Licenses to carry are only granted to police, army, and security personnel (bad)

3) Legal age to own/buy guns raised from 21 to 25 (bad)

4) Waiting periods to purchase guns take a minimum of 30 days (bad)

5) No handguns larger than a .38 Special are allowed (bad)

6) No semi-automatic long guns (rifles/shotguns) are allowed (bad)

Before these abominations came into law, the government offered civilians up to $100 for each gun they turned in.

Now let's be real here, unless these are young favela kids turning in stolen guns, the only other people who would abide by these turn in offers would be law-abiders. Why would the criminals do it? They're criminals and already break the law for a living. Hmmm...

Despite my arguments, Sao Paulo has claimed to have significantly cut down homicides in recent years, and of course, the government is claiming victory because of its laws. I don't buy it.

The chart below shows a drop in homicides in Sao Paulo, but indicates small increases in both Brasilia and Rio.

The Economist offers some real ideas in this article. Any drops in crime rates should be because police have been doing a much better job of actually solving crimes and putting murderers in jail for a change. This is in addition to good economic development during these years (although that is not the case now obviously), and a shift in age demographics. There is now a smaller population of youths aged 15-24-- many of which were involved in the crime boom of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Despite a small drop in murders in the last few years, armed robbery is obviously still a glaring monstrosity in Brazil, hence the Times article that started this whole blog.

Americans don't have these problems for a million different reasons, but a significant one is that armed thugs cannot assume that their potential victims are unarmed. Imagine if handguns for Brazilians were legal, even small calibers like a .380 or even a .22.

A $200 .380 semi-auto that can easily fit into a purse or glove box, and is not only a deterrent to carjackers or street hoodlums, but they are man stoppers.

The alternative is living in defenseless fear or dropping $22,000 to get your Passat armored.

Again, what strict gun control governments do not understand, is that an unarmed population is at complete risk of being terrorized by an underworld of violent young men and gangs of roving criminals. To really crack down on criminals, make the mandatory gun charges 10 years, require gun safety classes, and make permits readily available to law-abiding citizens. The alternative is simply too dangerous.

These people are indeed being terrorized constantly as this excerpt from that Times article explains:

"For Alessandra Amara, a bulletproof car became a necessary expense three years ago, she said, after she was robbed for the 11th time in little more than 10 years. “Having an armored car in this city is essential,” said Ms. Amara, 34, who works in the financial department of a car dealership. “I have been robbed every way imaginable.”

How would you react after the first robbery? First thing I would do is march down to Western Sport Shop or the like and put in for a .357 magnum or .45 semi-automatic.

Imagine being robbed 11 times!

The Brazilian government has put its citizens at risk, and should be taken to task over it.

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