Blog, National Politics, Society

What can we learn from the Brazilian concealed carry prohibition?

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by Rodrigo Schneider

[7 minute read]

In 2003, Brazilian Congress approved legislation that banned the carrying of concealed weapons nationwide and provided for a voter referendum 22 months later regarding whether to ban the sale of all firearms in Brazil. Whether this restrictive law was effective in reducing crimes is still controversial and I use a statistical design to identify the causal effects of this legislation and provide more explicit evidence to elucidate this law’s consequences.[1]

In the early 2000s, more than 30,000 gun-related homicides occurred in Brazil every year[2]. This number was much smaller in the 1980s but sharply increased in the 1990s. Motivated by this dramatic increase in the number of firearm-related deaths in Brazil, legislators passed federal firearm regulations in December 22nd, 2003 (Law number 10.826), in the form of the Estatuto do Desarmamento (Disarmament Statute). The legislation prohibited citizens from carrying a gun outside of their residences or places of business; it provided exemptions for hunters (sporting or subsistence), private security employees, and police officers.  The penalty for illegal possession (or carrying) increased from an incarceration period of one to three months to two to four years.[3] Finally, the statute made obtaining a gun permit more expensive and imposed more stringent requirements that made the process more restrictive.[4] This package of measures was enacted to decrease gun violence.

An essential and unique feature of the legislation was its 35th section, which set the stage for a national referendum to take place in October 2005 (22 months after the initial legislation was passed into law), to allow Brazilian citizens to vote on an even more restrictive weapons laws. The law put forward in the referendum stipulated that the sale of any guns and ammunition would be completely prohibited in the country (again, with exceptions for hunters and those with security-related jobs). More specifically, voters were asked the following question: Should the commerce of firearms and ammunition be prohibited in Brazil? Therefore, the referendum did not propose to change the previously passed legislative statute, which prohibited the carrying of concealed weapons, but it proposed to go further, by prohibiting the sale of all firearms.

By using a statistical design, commonly adopted to identify the impact of a policy in a reliable way (called regression discontinuity design), I found that in 2004, one year after the law was implemented, gun-related homicides decreased by 10.8 percent, with the reduction especially pronounced among young black males living in high-crime areas. Other crimes involving guns also declined (e.g. armed robbery decreased by 7.7%), while crimes that did not involve guns were unaffected. Enrollment in adult education courses disproportionately increased in areas that saw the biggest drop in gun-related crimes. [5]

As mentioned above, 22 months after the prohibition of concealed carry, Brazilian voters decided on a referendum whether owning a gun, even inside your residence or place of business, should be prohibited as well. Statistical analysis of this referendum, which was defeated by a wide margin (64% voted against the prohibition), shows higher voter turnout and stronger support for the complete weapons ban in the areas that had experienced the most significant decline in gun-related homicides.

Analyzing the concealed carry prohibition, I find that gun-related homicides decreased by 10.8% in the year following the enactment of the law (i.e., 2004), which corresponds to 3,900 lives being spared in one year. As figure 1 shows, the law reduced gun-related homicides but did not affect non-gun-related homicides mitigating concerns about the existence of other factors related to the crime that could be simultaneously changing with the law and potentially driving my results[6]. In Brazil, estimations of the value of statistical life vary from $0.77 million to $6.1 million.[7] Therefore, using the most conservative value of statistical life allows me to make the following claim: The prohibition of the right to carry concealed weapons generated an economic value of $3 billion in one year. This estimation does not consider other gains generated by the law such as a reduction of 12% in gunshot wounds, 8% in robberies and an increase in enrollment in adult education courses concentrated in areas where the concealed carry prohibition was most effective.

Figure 1 – Effect of the concealed carry prohibition on total homicides, gun-related homicides and non-gun-related homicides per 100,000 people[8]


Notes: Figure 1 shows three time-varying functions using a 48 months’ bandwidth and a vertical red line representing the cutoff point (January 2004). The solid line is fitted separately on each side of the threshold, and the dashed line represents the 95% confidence interval. The scatter plots show monthly averages. I regress the predicted residuals after regressing my dependent variables on calendar months, monthly rainfall and temperatures to take seasonality into account.

Although the concealed carry prohibition was highly effective and generated large welfare gains, the referendum on gun prohibition failed to pass. Only 36% of voters supported the gun prohibition, which required a simple majority to pass. Areas that experienced more significant decreases in gun-related homicides showed higher levels of voter turnout and support for the referendum that proposed a complete firearm ban. Figure 2 illustrates this argument showing the neighborhoods of the municipality of São Paulo: high-crime neighborhoods showed larger support for the gun ban. This result provides a suggestive hint as to why gun control legislation may be difficult to pass: Welfare gains may be concentrated in a small and less privileged share of the population that does not have enough votes, organizational strength or even influence in politics.

Figure 2 – Relationship between voting for the prohibition and vulnerability index[9]


Notes: The dashed line represents the least square estimation of the relationship between the residuals of the linear regression of support for gun control on population and income and the residuals of the linear regression of the vulnerability index on population and income. The regression considers all 47 neighborhoods of the São Paulo municipality for which the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) provides information on.

After 14 years of the enactment of the concealed carry ban, Brazil remains as the country with the largest number of gun-related homicides in the world. This can give us suggestions that law enforcement is a complement to any legislation and that, the law by itself, cannot solve our gun violence issues. Examples like the gun buyback program in Australia that reduced gun-related deaths by about 80% (8 times larger than the effect measured in the Brazilian gun carry ban) can show us that gun control policies, when enacted in countries with better police enforcement and easier border control than ours,  can be even more effective. An additional lesson that the literature related to gun control can teach us, especially from empirical examinations in the United States, is that allowing people to carry a gun only increase crimes. Therefore, laws that aim to allow Brazilians citizens to carry a gun, as the proposed bill PL 3722/2012, should not be expected to solve our gun violence problem, but only make it worse.

The investigation of the Brazilian concealed carry prohibition can also inspire the analysis of other laws attempting to reduce crimes. As mentioned above, the concealed carry ban disproportionately affected males as 94% of gun-related homicides’ victims are men. Other Brazilian laws, such as the Maria da Penha law, were focused in reducing crime against women and research showing whether it was effective and which part of society gained the most from it are not only welcome but necessary. Especially, because, as the referendum outcome suggested, Brazilian laws although effective, may have its gains concentrated in the most vulnerable part of the society. While this seems good from the point of view of an egalitarian society, as the most vulnerable people are likely to have their voices ignored, these legislations might not be appreciated and disregarded by the majority compromising their long-run effects.

[1] For details about my work methodology and findings, see:

[2] For instance, in 2003, there were 36,115 gun-related homicides (calculated using data from Brazilian Health Ministry).

[3] This penalty is harsher than most of the ones applied in the United States, where most states punish possession of gun without permit as a misdemeanor. For instance, in New York, possession without permit is punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both

[4] An applicant should have no criminal record, be employed, show proof of residence, pay a fee close to $1,000 attend a gun safety course, and pass a psychological exam.

[5] To identify the impact of the gun carry ban on adult education enrollment, I used a statistical method called difference-in-differences. It compares municipalities where the effects of the concealed carry ban were larger to municipalities where they were smaller, before and after the law. The results shows that places where the law had its larger effects also experienced a sharper increase in adult education enrollment. This was driven by male enrollment. I examined female enrollment as a placebo test and found no statistical effect, which should be expected as the law mostly affected males (94% of gun-related homicides victims were males). The most plausible mechanism explaining this result is that the law, by increasing the cost of being a criminal, decreased the opportunity cost of education.

[6] The economic value of the regulation can be estimated using the literature on the value of a statistical life.

[7] Ortiz, R., Markandya, A., and Hunt, A. (2009). Willingness to Pay for Mortality Risk Reduction Associated with Air Pollution in São Paulo. Revista Brasileira de Economia, 63, 3-22.

[8] Retrieved from my paper (

[9] Retrieved from my paper (


Rodrigo Schneider is Brazilian, originally from Itapetininga city in São Paulo state. He is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests lie at the intersection of public policy, development and political economy.

Blog, Enviroment, National Politics

Renca: Attacks From the Brazilian Government Put Reserve At Risk

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by Vera Ceccarello and Tatiana Massaro

“You do not know me and you’ve never seen me. You live in a distant land.”

(Davi Kopenawa, Yanomamishaman)

During the final months of 2017, the Amazon has once again taken center stage of debates in the media and in civil society. The trigger was a decree from the interim government of Michel Temer that would allow the private initiative to explore an area of 46 thousand square kilometers known as Renca (National Reserve of Copper and Associates) – First Decree 9.147, August 28, 2017 [i][1]. The urgent character of the decree and the lack of dialogue with the population spawned massive controversies among government, environmentalists, the indigenous population and people worried about preserving the Amazon forest. Faced with several outrage demonstrations, the Brazilian government backtracked and suspended the decree on September 2018 during 120 days from this date (Second Decree 9.159, from September 26, 2017, revoking the first one) [ii][2].


Caption: Fig. 1. Part of RENCA (National Reserve of Copper and Associates)

Source: IPAM. (October 25, 2016). Retrieved January 27, 2018  (iii)[3].

The issue, therefore, is not fully shelved. The first decree extinguishing Renca was published on August 28 (Decree 9.147, from August 28, 2017) [i], and it contained four articles without specifics on the nature, the extent or any details of the possible exploration. Then another one was issued in order to explain in-depth the content of the changes. The Temer government decree 9.147 [i] guarantees the conservation of preserved areas, both indigenous and forest ones. However, it is well known that inspecting such large areas of preservation and in such distant places is extremely complex. The collapse of the Mariana dam, in the countryside of Minas Gerais, is emblematic. In 2015, despite being monitored, the dam burst and led to one of the biggest environmental disasters in the world  [iv][4]. The exploration of the Carajás iron mine in the 1990s is also another example of an event that unleashed a serious and uncontrolled situation. Furthermore, the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant on the Xingu River is a great engineering project whose human and environmental impacts are immense and still subject to criticism. The environmental impacts are still senses by the indigenous people, by the fishermen, by the native people that was removed from their lands [v][5] [vi][6] [vii][7].


Caption: Fig. 2. Mariana dam: an biggest environmental disaster in Brazil.

Source: Folha de São Paulo. Retrieved January 28, 2018 (viii)[8].

The outcomes of predatory interference in the Amazon are a serious and long-standing issue. In the 1990s the massacre of Haixmu by illegal miners led to the death of 16 Yanomamis and has contaminated ever since over 92% of this indigenous population, which has also been affected by diseases and several forms of violence  [ix][9] [x][10]. Illegal mining is a recurring practice in the Amazon. It is estimated that 5,000 illegal miners and 28 clandestine airstrips are currently operating in protected areas [x]. Some people argue that private companies would allow exploitation to be within the law. On the other side, the environmental risks must be considered, since the objectives of a private enterprise can suppress environmental and social responsibilities, especially in regions with no or low supervision. As an example, investigations of the Federal Police between 2012 and 2015 showed that the gold explored in Yanomami lands arrives directly at Avenida Paulista, in the state of São Paulo, and are financed by those who profit from this type of activity [x].

The Renca’s operating decree creates concern and civil mobilization mainly among the indigenous people, environmentalists, NGO’s, artists and celebrities mobilized against the transformation of environmental reserve in exploration area [xi][11] [xii][12] [xiii][13]. Unlike what has been widely publicized, Renca is neither an indigenous nor an environmental reserve, although both are interwoven with its spatial delimitations. Located between the states of Pará and Amapá, in the northern region of Brazil, Renca was created in the 1980s, in the last years of the military dictatorship under President João Figueiredo, to make sure the domination of the region, the exploration of minerals and the possible studies on mining remained under the hands of the Brazilian state [xiv][14]. In an area the size of Denmark, the Mineral Resources Research Company (CPRM) would have exclusivity in exploration and geological research. Despite the wide openness to foreign capital during the military dictatorship, Renca clearly had a nationalist character.


Caption: Fig. 3. Comparison between the size of RENCA with Switzerland, Belgium and NYC and Philly.

Source: Biblioteca Pleyades. (August 25, 2017). Retrieved January 29, 2018. [xv][15]

In the current Brazilian political scene, Temer government’s broad wave to privatize Amazonia has increased exponentially the number of deaths in the region and only in the last year, there were several attacks on the indigenous population by prospectors, such as the ones that occurred in September 2017 in the Javari Valley. [xvi][16]. Only this year, there were several attacks on the indigenous population by prospectors, such as the ones that occurred in September in the Javari Valley. The tension in Amazon has grown steadily, in a similar fashion to the situation in 2005 when missionary Dorothy Stang was murdered in land conflicts. In both cases people in positions opposed to the government suffered life-threatening, seeing the tension increasing in the environment in which they live. While the prospectors and landowners are continuously strengthened by the new government measures, the local indigenous populations are weakened and killed. The lands where the indigenous people are living for centuries are threatened by the decisions of the government Michel Temer that did not consider the rights of the native people and also goes against the tendency of the developed countries in preserved the environmental for the next generations.

In addition to the repeal of the decree, the stance of the current government seems to point to an increasingly evident loosening of environmental legislation and openness to foreign capital [xvii][17].. The context of the measures taken by Michel Temer is possibly related to the pressure from the ruralists, the group of landlords and miners that are now demanding something in return to their support to actions the president took in order to remain in charge [xviii][18] [xix][19] [xx] [20]. The current attacks against the Amazon are serious and, in the face of what has happened at the end of the year, there seems to be no end in sight [xxi][21].

The magnitude of the Amazon is its strength, but also its weakness. The people who inhabit it and all who see Amazon as essential to both present and future do not cease their struggle, continuing to believe and act in face of the onslaughts. Pressuring the Temer government to ensure the protection of the Amazon is the role of Brazilian civil society. Even though the international community has offered support at the time of the decrees, this support should be extended until the attacks on the Amazon finally cease and the forest stops being at the mercy of political transactions. The Amazon is above decrees, governments, borders and bargaining. It is of interest to everyone and must be defended by everyone in Brazil and in the world.


Tatiana Massaro has a degree in Social Sciences from UNESP (São Paulo State University) and a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology from UFSCar (Federal University of São Carlos). She collaborated with the Centers for Natural Resources and Development (CNRD) and wrote the book “Sob perspectiva: relações sociais no pensamento de Eduardo Viveiros de Castro”.

Vera Ceccarello has a degree in Social Sciences from UNESP (São Paulo State University) and a Master´s degree in Sociology from Unicamp (State University of Campinas). She was a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University in 2015 and is the author of the book “Filho de ninguém: dualismo e bastardia no romance Dois irmãos” de Milton Hatoum”.


[1] [i] Brazil. Decre 9.147, August 28, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2018.

[2] [ii] Brazil. Decre 9.159, September 26, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2018.

[3] [iii] IPAM. (October 25, 2016). Retrieved January 27, 2018.

[4] [iv] The Guardian.  (October 15, 2016).   Retrieved January 27, 2018.

[5] [v] The Economist. (May 4, 2013). Retrieved January 28, 2018.

[6] [vi] The Guardian. (April 18, 2012). Retrieved 28, 2018).

[7] [vii] Forbes. (March 07, 2014). Retrieved January 28, 2018).

[8] [viii] Folha de São Paulo. Retrieved January 28, 2018.

[9] [ix] Survival Brazil. (August 13, 2013). Retrieved January 28, 2018.

[10] [x]  Instituto SocioAmbiental. (March 23, 2016). Retrieved January 28, 2018.

[11] [xi] Greenpeace. (August 27, 2017). Retrieved January 28, 2018.

[12] [xii] El país. (August 24, 2017). Retrieved January 28, 2018.

[13] [xiii] WWF. (December 13, 2017). Retrieved January 28, 2018).

[14] [xiv] BBC. (August 25, 2017). Retrieved January 28, 2018.

[15]  [xv] Biblioteca Pleyades. (August 25, 2017). Retrieved January 29, 2018.

[16] [xvi] The Guardian. (September 12, 2017). Retrieved January 28, 2018).

[17] [xvii]  Instituto SocioAmbiental. (November 01, 2017). Retrieved January 28, 2018.


[18] [xviii] O Globo. (July 23, 2017). Retrieved January 28, 2018.

[19] [xix] Valor Econômico. (August 08, 2017). Retrieved January 28, 2018.

[20] [xx] Mongabay. (August 24, 2017). Retrieved January 28, 2018.

[21] [xxi] HuffPost Brasil. (August 29, 2017). Retrieved January 28, 2018.


Foreign Policy

Brazil’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations

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by: Fernanda Nogueira and Mario Saraiva

On October 27, Brazil Talk in the company of Brazilian students at Columbia University was invited to visit the Brazilian Mission at the UN in order to learn more about this massive and at times veiled organization. Members of the Mission exposed the actions Brazil is undertaking at the UN and discussed the role of international organizations in different developmental challenges in Brazil. We’ll aim to highlight the main learning points from the visit.

Brazil Talk Visits Brazil's UN Mission
Brazil Talk Visits Brazil’s UN Mission

It was startling to realize how little we know about what exactly entails the work of the UN. The UN is a complex organization. (more…)

National Politics, Society

Brazil’s Deadly Bill Against Women

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By Fernando Haddad Moura, Editor and Writer at Brazil Talk

[4 minute read]

Every day 4 women die due to complications in abortions in Brazil. Estimates put the global number at around 50 thousand deaths annually, placing Brazil as one of the countries with the highest abortion mortality rates. The vast majority of these deaths are a result of clandestine procedures. Since abortion is still criminalized in Brazil young and poor women who cannot afford to seek out a private, willing doctor to perform safe surgeries. Currently, women can choose to abort if any of the following hold true: (i) the pregnancy is a result of rape; (ii) if it poses risks to the mother’s life; (iii) or if the fetus is anencephalic. Reasons that are legitimate due to their cruel and unfair conditions. Unfortunately, the word choose cited above may soon no longer exist. Last week a special commission of the Brazilian House of Representatives approved a proposed constitutional amendment (PEC 181) that criminalizes all forms of abortion, including the aforementioned conditions. The commission passed Congressman Jorge Tadeu Mudalen’s proposal initially focused on increasing maternity leave for mothers with premature babies. After the approval by 18 to 1 (the only vote against was from a woman), the bill now goes to the floor where an increasingly conservative and religious House, composed 91% of men, will decide the future of millions of Brazilian women. It is urgent that pressure be made by society so the bill is rejected and Brazil does not go back to the list of only five countries in the world where abortion is prohibited. After all, it’s women’s bodies, their burden and it should be their decision.