Rio de Janeiro´s famously laid-back residents are in a state of panic. A string of high profile knifings in well-heeled areas of the city are putting Cariocas on edge. The recent stabbing of a doctor inspired the drafting of new legislation to control knives. Though well intentioned, this effort is misguided.
It is not so much knives, but rather handguns that are doing the most damage. Revolvers and pistols were responsible for 42,416 of Brazil´s jaw-dropping 56,337 murders in 2012. Across the country, gun-related homicide has increased by 387% since the 1980s. Simply put, guns are more lethal than bladed weapons.
A popular misconception is that automatic assault rifles trafficked from neighboring countries are behind the city´s spike in lethal violence. Grainy footage of young men menacingly waving AK-47s are circulating in social media. Media stories regularly feature line-ups of arrested suspects and their arsenals of heavy weaponry.
The facts on the ground tell a very different story. Between 2010 and 2014, at least 39,150 firearms were seized in Rio de Janeiro. According to military and civil police records, 3,989 firearms were collected in the first five months of 2015. Of these, roughly 80% were handguns. Just 223, or 5%, of all the collected weapons consisted of semiautomatic rifles and machine guns. SEE MORE…