Thursday, May 16, 2019

Murder Rates Drop in Bolsonaro's Brazil: More Guns, Less Crime

During the first two months of President Bolsonaro's term, the Brazilian murder rate fell by 25%.  From
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The murder rates in Brazil for January and February this year were 25 percent lower compared to the same period last year, according to G1’s national homicide index. The index is based on official data from the 26 states and the Federal District.
 Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil on 28 October, 2018. President Bolsonaro has been adamant about reforming Brazil's extreme gun laws, to allow more Brazilians to defend themselves.

Did President Bolsonaro's reform policies in favor of self defense cause the drop in murder rates? The answer is complicated. Bolsonaro's policies probably had a positive effect.

President Bolsonaro's opponents have routinely predicted that homicides would increase because of his reforms of Brazil's gun laws.  From, in March, 2019, before the new statistics were out:
But even if the law doesn’t pass, the presidential decree already represents a step backward for public security in Brazil. Broadening access to guns puts men, women and children at higher risk of lethal violence. Bolsonaro and other gun advocates say that more armed citizens will deter shootings, but there is simply no hard evidence that loosening restrictions on firearms improves public safety or security. In fact, research from IPEA shows that for every 1 percent increase in the number of firearms in circulation in Brazil, there is a 2 percent increase in homicides. In most other countries as well, there is a similar relationship between permissive gun laws and gun-related homicides.
Note the last sentence in the quote above. The author is not talking about a decrease in homicides, rather a decrease in gun-related homicides.

Those who wish a disarmed population assume that more guns = more crime. But numerous studies show there is no clear relationship. Some studies, done by John Lott and others show more guns = less crime. The effects are not extreme, but the overall trend shows a decrease in violent crime when more people are armed. Many studies show no relationship between guns and overall murder rates.

Decreasing gun-related homicides is ineffective if the overall homicide rate remains the same or increases. Much of the argument about restrictive gun law is about substitution effects. It does not matter to a murder victim if they are killed with a bomb or knife instead of a gun.  Making guns harder to get can also mean making victims easier to kill because they are unarmed.

President Bolsnaro issued his first decree reforming some of Brazil's extreme gun laws on 15 January, 2019. How could his decree have such a dramatic effect in such a short time? It is unlikely that the total number of Brazilians with legal guns increased significantly in from January 15th to the end of February.

The answer is an inversion of the copycat effect. Just as some people are more likely to commit horrific crimes because of media publicity, criminals are less likely to commit violent crime if they perceive the risk to be great because of media coverage.

When President Bolsonaro was elected, the publicity of his desired reform of the gun laws was tremendous. His actual reform decree on 15 January was widely reported all over the world.

Potential murders and violent criminals watch TV, listen the radio, and surf the Internet. When their perception is that crime is more risky, crime rates decrease.

There are historical examples that illustrate this effect. When women were widely reported to receive firearms training in Orlando, Florida, in 1966, the number of rapes decreased by 88% in the next year. There were similar effects when Kennesaw Georgia received substantial publicity for an ordinance requiring a gun in the home (an 89% decrease in residential burglaries). Several other instances are cited by Professor Gary Kleck in his seminal work, Point Blank, Guns and Violence in America.

In order to continue the initial drop in homicides, Brazil will need to reinforce the perception that violent crimes have become more dangerous.

The high level of reporting, as President Bolsonaro reinforces his push to reform the extreme gun laws, should help.  There was world wide coverage of his second reform decree on 7 May, 2019.

President Bolsonaro can assist by keeping the gun law reforms in the news.

The media in Brazil should publish stories of citizens purchasing guns, citizens receiving gun training, and successful instances of citizens using guns for defense of self, others, and their homes.

By the end of 2019, we will see if the experiment in reducing homicides by reforming the gun laws to make self defense easier, has had an effect.

Over the long term, more Brazilians will need to be armed and capable of defending themselves on the street to sustain changes in how criminals perceive the risks of violent crime.

©2019 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch


Anonymous said...

There is often an irony in statistics, that the harder that public statistics are to compile, the more accurately they reflect the reality. For example, broad and acute swings in statistics tend to be temporary, but long, gradual increases and decreases are more accurate and telling.

This axiom holds true for many things, and was first popularly known with television shows, now becoming an iron rule in Hollywood. That is, a TV show might get wild swings in its ratings for any number of external reasons, which are often ignored. But when it gets slow and steady increases week after week, it is seen as being of increasing value. Conversely, slow and steady decreases in its ratings are a death knell for it, often resulting in cancellation.

Likewise, few people realize that illegal immigration to the US tends to happen in wild swings, often based on the news media south of the border. If they say it is easy to cross and jobs are plentiful in the US, it causes a huge jump; but if they are dour, crossings plummet.

Right now, Bolsonaro is getting an election boost drop in homicides. But the reason why is hazy, be it gun liberty, a law and order crackdown, fear in criminals, or just optimism in nationally moving in the right direction. However, what will truly matter are more subdued statistics.

For example, increases in gun licensing and purchases. A major jump will happen with legal concealed carry, which has had a huge impact in the US, but I do not believe they have yet. Criminals in many places live in terror of being shot by a random citizen while they are breaking the law and this has a lasting deterrent effect.

Anonymous said...

When I interviewed the second in command at CBP head quarters in 2008 he stated the number of illegal crossing for the last 40 years averaged 1,25 million with an average of 15 to 25 % apprehensions. That year they had apprehended 485,000 by July. Do the numbers 11-13 million illegals in this country is B/S because the average has continued for eleven more years. 40 X 1.25 equals 50 take away 25% equals 36.75 ad in ten more years and it is dam close to 50 million illegals already here. costing the American tax payers 200 billion a year in resources. if it were only 11 to 13 million we could give them each a million and save tons of money. two billion is two thousand million. wake up morons. the ones that stay her export Billions from our GDP Build the wall and Mexico does pay for it by the loss to our GDP we stop. If Mexico does not get that money the wall pays for its self and saves us billions. every billion that leaves this country in cash is a 20 billion dollar loss to our GDP. The GDP is calculated on every dollar spent here is spent 20 times a year. every dollar that leaves this country is never spent once.