In 2016, 61,819 Brazilians were murdered – an average of 198 per day. That’s three and a half times as many homicides as in the United States in the same year. The per capita (per 100,000 population) murder rate of 29.9 was almost five times worse than our six. But how can this be? If you ask progressives, you’ll discover that America is a lawless nation of cowboys and criminals, while Brazil has what many would consider common sense gun regulations.
If someone else holds the power over your life and liberty, then you have no rights to either.
The truth is that the problem of violence in a society is so much more complicated than merely whether firearms – or self-defense in general – are legal. Having said that, to the almost 200 people murdered every day in Brazil, the right to keep and bear arms would have made a profound difference; it is what keeps us from being forced into the role of helpless victim.
Former Army Captain, Jair Bolsonaro, understands this. And the people of Brazil have finally recognized it as well. That’s why they elected him to be their next president. And in preparation for his ascent to power, Brazilian legislators are working on a bill that reduces some of the tyrannically “progressive” restrictions that have kept the people defenseless for too long. More importantly, it officially recognizes the right of the people to defend themselves – something entirely in line with Bolsonaro’s thinking:
“Why have I always defended the ownership of firearms? It’s so you, upstanding citizens, with a few requirements, can have a weapon inside your house or your farm. If some guy breaks down the door to your house, knocks down the gate to your farm, you have the right to react.”
It’s a far cry from the unrestricted right to keep and bear arms that our own Founders envisioned – and enacted – when laying the groundwork for the nation in which we live today. But requiring less of people before allowing them to exercise their God-given right to defend themselves as well as their friends and families, including lowering the minimum purchase age to 21, is a step in the right direction. With any luck, Brazil might join the tiny group of only three nations today – Mexico, Guatemala, and, of course, the United States – that officially recognizes that right.
The Cost of “Progress”
In Brazil, anyone who purchases a firearm has to be 25 and must register the gun. It is, in most cases, illegal to actually carry the weapon outside of the home, though there is a special license granting an exception. It’s most often given to law enforcement officers, and costs both a one-time initial R$1,000 – that’s Brazilian Real (BRL) – and another R$85 to register the gun every three years. To put those costs in perspective, that initial fee is about what the average Brazilian makes in a month – before paying taxes or for any of their living expenses. Dealers must also be licensed, and are required to maintain records of every transaction – including the sale of ammunition.
The South American nation’s firearm restrictions are instructive to those considering so-called “common sense” gun control. There are an estimated 17 million firearms in Brazil, of which approximately nine million – nearly half – are unregistered. Despite the fact that being caught with an illegal gun means a stint in prison, criminals still roam about with weapons and kill people – at a rate far higher than what occurs in the U.S., where we have comparatively lax gun laws.
If two to four years in prison doesn’t sound that harsh, consider the differences between the facilities in our two nations. In Brazil, prisoners are often crammed 40-deep into 12-man cells, must sleep close to the ceiling due to frequent flooding from clogged sewers, and face both deprivation and active torture and murder at the hands of the powerful gangs that make Brazil’s prisons their official headquarters. As icing on the cake, disease spreads like wildfire, especially tuberculosis. Even if you manage to avoid the violence, just breathing has a good chance of killing you.
This is the cost of “progress.” For those of us who value individual liberty above all other political ideals, the price is too high to be paid. And what are the progressives of Brazil calling for as a solution to the problem they helped create? A complete disarming of the citizenry, of course. Keep that in mind the next time some champion of “common sense gun reform” calls you paranoid and says that no one wants to take away your right to bear arms.
In our own Declaration of Independence, the Founders called for the recognition of the self-evident, God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They declared that only to protect these rights were governments instituted amongst men. That ideal of a government only existing to protect the life and liberty of its people drove them to craft the new nation as they did – including what we now call the Bill of Rights. Why does the United States Constitution recognize (not grant) the right to keep and bear arms? If someone else holds the power over your life and liberty, then you have no rights to either.
It takes a lot of faith to create a government that recognizes the right of the people to overthrow it should tyranny begin to take hold. This isn’t what Brazil is doing. They’re just preparing to recognize the right of the people to defend themselves against violent criminals. But, again, it’s a step in the right direction.