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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]

figure3.png

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]

SP_neighborhood

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: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1QCQasYG8iHaWJVZ0Z3VDJ2eEE/view

[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 (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1QCQasYG8iHaWJVZ0Z3VDJ2eEE/view)

[9] Retrieved from my paper (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1QCQasYG8iHaWJVZ0Z3VDJ2eEE/view)

IMG_6314_mod.jpg

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.

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.

(more…)

Blog, National Politics, Society, Uncategorized

Is contemporary slavery a contemporary issue in Brazil?


By Fernando Haddad Moura, Editor and Writer at Brazil Talk

[5 min read]

In the late 19th century Ed Morel discovered how Belgian companies were exploring Congolese natives forcing them to collect thousands of pounds of rubber to enrich their European colonial powers. Those that didn’t obey were beaten and had their hands cut off to be set as an example for anyone who’d dare defy their leaders.

In a country set thousands of miles from the Congo, the Belgians had no idea of what was going on, and if it weren’t for Morel and his team of missionaries and other informants, the exploitation might have continued up to present days. This sad account of Congo’s history, told by Adam Hochschild in the globally acclaimed novel King Leopold’s Ghost gives an excellent example of how companies can act if they aren’t held accountable and if no one is looking. It reflects how, in the search of maximizing their profits, unethical corporations and their suppliers might be willing to ignore international treaties and submit people to terrible conditions.

(more…)

Blog, Society

Law regarding current military trials sanctioned by Temer – do you know what that means?


by Camila Jordan and Fernanda Nogueira, Editors and Writers at Brazil Talk

[7 min read]

(This article was updated on Monday, 16th of October 2017) 

On October 10th, the Senate approved the PLC 44/2016[1] amendment to the  9.299/2016 Law; the proposal alters the current decree that defines the Military Penal Code, from October 21st, 1969[2], concerning the judging process of military servants in the exercise of their duties. In layman terms, it means that crimes committed by the military in duty (under policing and “Law and Order enforcement” operations) against the lives of civilians would be judged by the Military Justice System.

As of today, Monday the 16th of October, Michel Temer, acting President of Brazil, has sanctioned the Law PLC 44/2016. The law was already published in the Diário Oficial da União, roughly translated as the Federal Official Journal of Brazil.

(more…)

Blog, Culture, Society

What happens when people DO NOT recognize themselves as rights holders?


By Camila Jordan, editor and writer at Brazil Talk

[ 7 min read ]

Watching a video[1] of a tragic incident in São Paulo[2], where people’s houses under a bridge were caught in a fire, triggered the following reflection.

What happens when people DO NOT recognize themselves as rights holders?

According to residents living in the occupation, the fire was started by local police officers with the intent to expel them from their impromptu homes, made out of remnants of wood and other rejected materials. However, according to an article in Folha de São Paulo and interviews with Eduardo Odloak, the sub-mayor of the region, one person from the impromptu community lit the area on fire in revolt against the actions performed by the city government.

People who had been living in the place of the incident say they had been dwelling there the last three years. Whether city hall gave warnings about their planned removal is unclear, some people said two social workers came by and urged them to go to a shelter on the Friday before the incident, but the majority didn’t seem to know what was happening.

Former mayor Fernando Haddad[3] had installed the ‘cold law’ decree, with the intent of discouraging public agents of dismantling improvised shacks and removing belongings, such as tents, sleeping bags, blankets, and mattresses, from homeless people. However, the decree ended up also allowing the creation of new small slums in different parts of the city. To combat the increase of new slums, the current mayor João Doria has now formally revoked it.

Actions like these targeting vulnerable communities are unfortunately quite common, especially in Sao Paulo, a megacity of 22 million, where land is a valuable resource and can draw the big bucks. After hundreds of fires in favelas in the last five years local activists started noticing how the price of square footage of these areas starting to increase after the fires. In 2012 a commission was installed to investigate the relation between the so called ‘accidental’ fires that were happening in the favelas and real estate speculation. The case closed without further investigations.

Last year 230 fires were registered, by March of 2017 already 44 had happened.

 

See more about this issue here, here, and here.

 

Sao Paulo has one of Brazil’s largest homeless population. According to a study conducted in 2015 by the Municipal Secretary for Social Assistance and Development (SMADS) and Fundação Instituto de Pesquisas Econômicas (FIPE), there are 16.000 homeless people. But some specialists[4] say this number is incorrect and too small, due to methodological errors and improper data collection.

Violence against the most vulnerable populations in Brazil comes at an early age and has a long history, and depending on one’s race and economic status it will be a lifelong experience with various degrees of severity and forms.

If a person is upper or middle class and white, she or he might grow up being taught that the walls that separate them from the outside world are for their safety, since there are people out there that ‘are out to get you.’ This person will learn the right time to be at home; if you are a woman, this will mean a different hour of the day. She or he will also learn the habit of crossing the street, if someone ‘funny looking’ (Hello: racial bias) is coming. And they sure will know which places in the city to avoid.

If the person is poor and black, he or she will most probably live under constant cross fire between the military police and drug cartels. They will learn not to go out at certain hours at the risk of being shot, beaten, arrested or killed. Police officers abusing power to achieve the so called ‘pacification of slums’ by raiding houses without a warrant will be an everyday fact of life. They will know someone who has been either killed or shot.

The violence comes in many shapes and forms.

It doesn’t come equally to all. Some read about it. Others see the news on TV. Others have no choice but to live with it every day of their lives.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, violence is:

  1. a) the use of physical force to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy;
  2. b) an instance of violent treatment or procedure.

Physical violence – that’s the one hardly deniable, easier proved and condemned, but how about ‘b’? How about the non-physical abuse? How about the denial of your rights as a citizen? The right to be safe in your home and neighborhood, the right to quality education and health services, the right to privacy, and even the right to life?

 

“Aqui não tem traficante, aqui não tem arma, aqui não tem assassino!”*

*Translation: “There are no drug dealers here, there are no guns here, there are no murderers here!”

 

Reflecting upon what people in the video were saying, I was brought back to the time I worked in Rio de Janeiro’s poorest favelas. I became friends with many of the families living in extreme poverty, meaning they had no access to water, sanitation or electricity. In that three year period I had the chance and opportunity to listen to their stories of suffering, of a daily feeling of insecurity and violence, and this sense of invisibility they feel society had towards them.

Fabbi Silva[5], my friend, someone I admire and worked with in Rio, is a resident and coordinator of several projects in Parque das Missões[6], considered one of Rio de Janeiro’s most dangerous favelas. She works with women in circles of trust talking about issues like racism, domestic violence, feminism and does poetry readings with young teens and children[7]. The impact her projects had and continue to have in a community stricken with extreme poverty and violence are immense. Fabbi dares to inspire the community to tell a different narrative about themselves.

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.14.47 AM.png

Young girls proudly performing a dance show about their ancestrality

When I asked her about the video and what she thought about my reflection she immediately answered that the violation of rights starts at an early age and comes from all sides.

“It has become our normality.”

She emphasized the fact that these rights violations are continuous and targeted at poor and black populations. “We cannot talk about these violations without talking about systemic racism”, Fabbi reinforced.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 11.15.04 AM.png

Children and Fabbi reading poetry

Most of these vulnerable communities do not see themselves as holders of rights, they have never been taught, shown or proven that they hold the same rights as the richer and whiter counterparts of their country. As mentioned above, their neighborhoods are blighted, lacking access to water and basic sanitation, connections to the electrical system are usually illegal since private companies decide not to provide services in certain neighborhoods.

In Rio, I saw how people had to stay awake two or three nights of the week to fill their large water containers, as late as three in the morning. This is the time at which the state  owned water company (soon to be privatized) decides to open the water stream for some of the most invisible favelas. These are also the same people who have to wake up at 4 am to catch a three-hour commute to get to the city and work. The access to education and the public health system are precarious, not only in quality but, as Fabbi mentioned to me over the phone, in the way they are treated as second class citizens by public servants. All these violences, little by little, day by day, have a devastating effect – people stop believing they are citizens with power and rights.

While studying and living in New York, I have been confronted with so many patterns of inequality and racism that call to mind the reality in Brazil.

Two continental sized countries. Two countries with a deep history of racism. Two societies that need to start urgently addressing, head first, the roots of these inequalities that we can still clearly see today affecting colored populations across all aspects of their lives.

So, dear reader, what shall we do? I suppose there is no other way but to start the change within oneself. One needs to look inside, acknowledge one’s biases, racism and start being aware, start listening, observing. Start being an ally to this pressing cause.

 

 

 

 

All photos were published with Fabbi’s authorization.

** Corrected version, previously said that the water company in Rio was privately owned is in fact still state owned.

References

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwZp2K_npGs

[2]http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2017/07/1905452-prefeitura-faz-operacao-de-retirada-de-sem-tetos-na-regiao-central.shtml

[3]http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2017/03/1870679-doria-revoga-regra-de-haddad-e-inicia-retirada-de-minifavelas-das-ruas-de-sp.shtml

[4]http://www.redebrasilatual.com.br/cidadania/2015/05/censo-da-populacao-de-rua-de-sao-paulo-e-marcado-por-questionamentos-e-acusacoes-3031.html

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjpiWvqyVbI (video in Portuguese)

[6] http://parquedasmissoes.blogspot.com.br/

[7] https://www.instagram.com/sarauapadrinheumsorriso/