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Guns control, crime and violence in Brazil

Grant number: 17/14337-8
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research
Effective date (Start): January 15, 2018
Effective date (End): May 14, 2018
Field of knowledge:Applied Social Sciences - Economics
Principal Investigator:Marcelo Justus dos Santos
Grantee:Marcelo Justus dos Santos
Host Investigator: David Hemenway
Host Institution: Instituto de Economia (IE). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Research place: Harvard University, Cambridge, United States  


Data from the Mortality Information System of the Ministry of Health, published in the Atlas da Violência 2016, show that that were 59,627 homicides in Brazil in 2014, including deaths by aggression and legal interventions, which translates into an extremely high rate of 29.1 deaths per 100 thousand inhabitants. These figures are much higher than in most countries not undergoing armed conflict. In absolute numbers, Brazil alone accounts for over 10% of the total number of homicides in the world. Data from Homicide Observatory indicate that in 2012 Brazil already was one of the twelve most violent among 154 observed countries throughout the world. According to data from the Atlas, in 2014, 44,861 persons (nearly 3/4 of all homicide victims in the country) were murdered with firearms. This proportion is similar only to that observed in a few Latin American countries, but much higher than the average percentage of 21% in European countries, as reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Public safety experts in Brazil agree that one of the critical issues related to the adoption of a policy to prevent violence is the firearms control policy. They only disagree on the degree of control by the competent authorities over the granting of authorization to own and carry firearms. Although not new, this is still a relevant and quite heated discussion both in academia and in social networks. Since that the notion of "more guns, less crime" is undoubtedly the most controversial one defended in the empirical literature on the causes of crime and violence, the main objective of this proposed research is to investigate the relationship between firearms and lethal violence in Brazil, and specifically it aims at assessing the effect of the Disarmament Statute. The specific objectives are defined on the basis of previous empirical evidence and the state of the art. This project will be conducted together with David Hemenway at Harvard School of Public Health in the Harvard Injury Control Research Center during four months. We will seek to advance from three previous empirical studies performed in Brazil. It should be emphasized that we will use to two singular databases for research in Brazil, which were never used in empirical studies: data from rape victims who receive treatment and psychological follow up in a major hospital (Women's Integrated Healthcare Center at the State University of Campinas), and data of guns victims (homicide attempts, suicide attempts, accidents) from a remarkable program for emergency treatment (SAMU, in Brazilian acronym). A Special Committee of the Brazilian House of Representatives is deliberating over Bill 3722/12, which seeks to revoke the DS. The Bill would reduce the minimum age for buying firearms from 25 to 21. Among other things, it authorizes individuals under police investigation or facing criminal charges, including those being prosecuted for murder, to own and carry firearms. There is popular support for Bill 3722/12 owing to the considerable sense of insecurity among many Brazilians. However, it is important to recall that violence is a complex phenomenon. A wide range of variables shapes the prevalence, including, inter alia, income and social inequality, unemployment, education, institutional impunity, and funding for public security. In this context, in such a controversial scenario, this project comes at an important social moment. (AU)

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