13.05.2015 - UNESCO Office in Brasilia

Map of Violence examines deaths by firearms in Brazil from 1980 to 2012

© Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz

The number of deaths by shooting firearms in Brazil reached 42,416 people in 2012, the equivalent of 116 deaths per day. This is what is revealed in the latest edition of the survey entitled “Mapa da violência 2015: mortes matadas por armas de fogo” (Map of violence 2015: deaths by firearms), a work by the sociologist Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz. No less than 40,077 of these deaths (94.5%) were homicides. Both the total number of victims of firearms and the number of murders committed with firearms are the highest ever recorded in the country by the Map of Violence study, whose time series of data collection begins in 1980 and runs until 2012.

The death rate from firearms in Brazil – an indicator that takes population growth into account – was 21.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012. This rate is second highest ever recorded by the Map of Violence. It is only lower than the rate in 2003, when there were 22.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. The specific rate of homicides committed with firearms in 2012 (20.7) is the highest since 1980.

Analysing the period 2004 to 2012, the Map of Violence estimates that 160,036 lives have been saved due to the firearms control policy that emanated from the approval the Disarmament Statute. From the total of deaths avoided, 113,071 of them would have been of young people, according to the projections made by the study.

The Map of Violence 2015 is the third of its kind focusing exclusively on deaths resulting from firearms. The first came out in 2005 and the second in 2013 incorporating data up to 2010. This latest version includes data from 2011 and 2012.

The primary data source is the Mortality Information System (Sistema de Informação sobre Mortalidade – SIM) of the Ministry of Health in Brazil, managed by the Health Surveillance Secretariat (Secretaria de Vigilância em Saúde), which is based on death certificates issued nationwide. The survey records the location and characteristics of the victims, such as age, colour and gender.

The dissemination of the study is a result of the partnership between the National Youth Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic (Secretaria Nacional de Juventude da Presidência da República – SNJ), the Secretariat for Racial Equality Promotion Policies (Secretaria de Políticas de Promoção da Igualdade Racial – SEPPIR), UNESCO in Brazil, and the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO).

Youth and firearms: 2012
The study also reveals that youth are the major victims of deaths by firearms in Brazil. Of the total 42,416 shooting deaths in 2012, 24,882 (59%) of people killed were between 15 and 29 years old.  Demographically, this age group made up fewer than 27% of the population.

The youth mortality rate from firearms reached 47.6 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012. That is more than double the rate registered for the total population (21.9). This rate and also the absolute number of young people killed by firearms in 2012 are the highest ever recorded by the Map of Violence study since 1980.

According to the survey, the 2012 data interrupted a slight declining movement that had been identified in the numbers for 2010 and 2011 of firearm mortality rates in the country, both in the general population and in the 15-29 age group.

The increase of deaths by firearms: 1980-2012
Looking over the entire period covered by the Map of Violence study, it shows that 880,386 people died by firearms between 1980 and 2012 in Brazil. 747,760 of these were murdered. In 1980, the total number of deaths by firearms was 8,710 people, which has grown to 42,416 deaths in 2012. It corresponds to a growth of 387%. The Brazilian population grew 61% during the same period.

The survey highlights that growth in deaths by firearms in the total population was almost exclusively made up of murders, which grew 556.6%. Suicides increased only 49.8% and accidental deaths have actually fallen by 26.4%. Shooting deaths from unknown cause (ie. without suicide, homicide or accident being specified) dropped significantly (-31.7%), indicating improvement in the information registration mechanisms.

Among young people, the scenario was even more dramatic: the 463.6% increase in the number of young victims of firearms is exclusively explained by the 655.5% increase of young people murdered, while accidents, suicides and “cause unknown” have fallen over the period (-23.2%, -2.7% and -24.4% respectively).

Data by Region and by State
The new edition of Mapa da violência 2015: mortes matadas por armas de fogo presents data by region, by state, by capitals, and by municipalities. They reveal different situations within the country.

In absolute numbers, data show that the number of deaths by firearms in Brazil increased 11.7% from 2002 to 2012. The Southeast region decreased by 39.8% during the same period, driven by the states of São Paulo (-58.6%) and Rio de Janeiro (-50.3%). The other regions had increases in absolute numbers: +135.7% in the North; +89.1% in the Northeast; +34.6% in the South; and +44.9% in the Mid-West.

In relation to the variation of firearm-related death rate per 100,000 inhabitants, the state unit with the highest rate was Alagoas, with 55 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012. Roraima was the state with the lowest rate (7.5). From 2002 to 2012, nine state units reduced the firearm-related death rate. São Paulo had the greatest decline (-62.2%). 17 other states and the Federal District had an increase. Maranhão had the highest increase (273.2%).

In 2012, among the capital cities, Maceió (Alagoas State) had the highest firearm-related death rate in the total population (79.9). Boa Vista (Roraima State) had the lowest rate (7.1). The rate declined in twelve capitals from 2002 to 2012. The city of Rio de Janeiro had the greatest decline (-68.3%). São Luis (Maranhão State) had the greatest increase (316%).

The survey also calculated the mortality rates among the total population in 1,669 Brazilian municipalities that have more than 20,000 inhabitants. In order to prevent isolated events that may cause disproportionate influence in the municipal statistics, the survey takes the average number of deaths by firearms of the last three years from the data available, ie. 2010, 2011 and 2012.

In relation to the youth population aged 15 to 29, the survey considered only the municipalities with more than 15,000 young people, which is a total of 555 Brazilian cities. Among these assessed cities, the municipality of Simões Filho (Bahia State) had the highest firearm-related death rate during the period 2002-2012, both among the total population and among youth. In the total population, Simões Filho had 130.1 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Among young people, the rate was 314.4 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

Profile of those killed and the Youth Victimization Index
The publication also contains the so-called Youth Victimization by Firearms Index (Índice de Vitimização Juvenil por Armas de Fogo – IVJ-AF). This index analyses the incidence of homicides among young people comparing its results to those of the non-youth population. Thus, the study reveals that, proportionally, there was an average of 285% more young people murdered by firearms than the non-youth population in 2012. In other words, for every 4 young people murdered by firearms only one person from the rest of the population would also have been killed the same way.

The study also shows the age of the victims who died of shooting fatalities. In 2012, the highest firearm-related death rate was verified among young people aged 19, with a rate of 62.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. The second highest rate was among young people aged 20 (62.5).

The Mortality Information System (SIM) of the Ministry of Health records the race/colour of victims. In 2012, according to the study, 10,632 Whites and 28,946 Blacks died from firearms in Brazil. This represents 11.8 deaths per 100,000 Whites and 28.5 per 100,000 Blacks. Thus, proportionally 142% more Black people died by firearms than White people. The survey also reveals that in 2012, 94% of the victims among the total population were male. Among young people, this rate reached 95%.

Comparative analysis with other countries
The survey consulted the World Health Organization (WHO) Information System databases to compare the firearm-related death rates of 90 countries or territories. Due to the delays of the States in the provision of updated data to WHO, the study used information available for each country from any of the years in the period 2008-2012. Brazil had the 11th highest firearm-related death rate in the group of 90 countries: 21.9 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Venezuela had the highest rate (55.4). At the other end, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Morocco, and Hong Kong had zero firearm-related death rates.

The Disarmament Statute and the lives saved
A series of studies conducted in the context of the discussions that preceded the referendum on forbidding the sale of firearms and ammunition - art. 35 of the Disarmament Statute – had put into question the lethality of weapons in Brazil. According to these studies, one way to consider the effectiveness of firearm restriction mechanisms is the use of an indicator called “lives saved”. This indicator consists of the difference between the number of deaths expected (by the analysis of its growth trend) and the number of deaths that actually occurred. In other words, it is the comparison between the number of expected deaths and the number of the ones that really happened after a concrete action that might have influenced the change in this trend, which would be the case of the approval of the Disarmament Statute. The “lives saved” indicator reflects that the number of deaths that were avoided or motivated by the arms control policy implemented with the Disarmament Statute in every state unit of the country.

This tool made it possible to conclude that the firearms control policy, in its first year of operation, not only annulled the annual growth trend of 7.2% of pre-existent homicides, but also led to a sharp fall of 8.2% in the number of deaths registered in 2003. Because of this it possible to argue that the impact of the Disarmament Statute approval was a drop of 15.4% in the number of deaths by firearms in the country.

Due to policies to restrict access and discouragement of the use of firearms, the new survey estimates that 160,036 lives were saved between 2004 and 2012, 31,041 only in 2012. Most of the lives saved were young people aged 15 to 29 (113,071).

"From the analysed data, we concluded that the greatest impact of firearms control policies was their enormous capacity for preventing juvenile homicides. Young people represent 27% of the total population, but these policies helped to save the lives of 113,071 young people out of an overall total of 160,036. That is 70.7% of the averted deaths were young people", says Julio Jacobo.

More information:

The National Youth Secretariat Press Office
Motoryn Paul, (61) 3411-3929, paulo.motoryn(at)presidencia.gov.br

UNESCO in Brazil
- Ana Lúcia Guimarães, (61) 2106-3536, (61) 9966-3287, a.guimaraes(at)unesco.org
- Demétrio Weber, (61) 2106-3538, d.weber(at)unesco.org

FLACSO Communication Coordinator in Brazil
Margareth Doher, (21) 2234-1896 and (21) 8137-8196 9, margarethdoher(at)flacso.org.br

Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz, j.jacobo(at)flacso.org.br

The digital version of the Mapa da violência 2015: mortes matadas por armas de fogo and the spread sheets with data from 5,565 municipalities will be available on the Internet, from 8.30pm on May 13, 2015, at www.mapadaviolencia.org.br.

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