By Mark Taylor
This is one of three articles this week about the approaching referendum. Tomorrow and Friday we will be posting articles from Blair Lasky and John Fitzpatrick giving different perspectives on the referendum.

A monumental moment in Brazil’s future is approaching on October 23rd, as the country holds a national referendum on whether the sale of firearms and munitions should be banned outright.

The statistics are worrying from every angle in respect of gun related crime and deaths. Arguably the statistics have been swept under the carpet by both international and national news, whereas other items such as the Arab-Israeli conflict are commonly reported. As a comparison, more than four times the number of people killed in the Arab-Israeli conflict have been killed by guns in Brazil during the same period. Other statistics include Brazil having the second-highest number of gun-related deaths in the world, more than some war zones. Guns kill more young people, in the 15-44 age group, than anyone else. When examined as one of the 36 richest nations in the world, Brazil again comes second in gun related deaths (the USA coming first).

Recent gun amnesties have been made all around Brazil, and around 300,000 weapons have so far been handed into the police. The Brazilian government even went to the recent extreme of compensating those who handed in weapons, albeit with a notional amount. Weapons recovered have involved everything from non-functional rusty revolvers, through to heavy machine guns and rocket launchers. In Rio, where gun crime among the shantytown drug lords is particularly notorious, a show was made (in 2001) of the decommissioning of 100,000 guns and weapons which were ceremoniously crushed, under the glare of flashes and TV cameras, by a bulldozer.

The equation, which can never be unequivocally proven, and that is used both positively and negatively by those both pro and anti-guns, is whether having guns in society is the reason for related crime. The famous film by Michael Moore, Bowling for Columbine, looked at this question principally in the context of the USA, although failed to come to any conclusion.

Despite there being no final answer to the question of gun circulation and related crime, after the recent gun amnesty Brazil saw the first drop in 13 years in gun related deaths. The government has attributed this drop to the amnesty, and it is hard to refute.

Current opinion on the topic varies. All of the popular current affairs magazines, such as Veja, Istoe and Epoca, have run front page articles on the issue. Surprisingly Veja seems to be supporting on some level the No” vote, as their recent front page carried the headline “5 Reasons To Vote No”. Perhaps they’re falling on the side of the argument that the issue is more complicated than first appears. Istoe carries a more balanced “7 Reasons to Vote Yes, and 7 Reasons to Vote No”. But when you look at the reasons in detail they are essentially all the same, albeit they come from those on the “frontline” i.e. victims or relations of victims of gun crime.

The arguments basically fall into two camps: those who think removing guns from circulation will reduce related crime and deaths, and those who think removing guns takes away the ability to defend yourself from crime.

The only thing that is clear is that it will take many years to know for sure whether either vote has worked, depending on the 23rd October.

Previous articles by Mark Taylor:

Brazil: Scams
Brazil: Moby Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 5
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 4
Brazil: Avril Lavigne at Pacaembu
Moby in Brazil
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 3
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 2
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 1
Brazil: First season of Lost repeated on AXN
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