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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005, 02:58 GMT 03:58 UK
Rare drop in gun deaths in Brazil
By Steve Kingstone
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Brazilian policeman in armed stand-off
Brazilian police have had to contend with well-armed criminals
For the first time in 13 years Brazil has seen a fall in the number of deaths caused by firearms.

Last year 36,000 people were killed by guns - a drop of 8% from 2003, according to the health ministry.

The government says the change is due to innovative disarmament measures, including a gun buy-back scheme.

The figures were released on Friday, seven weeks before a national referendum on whether to ban outright the sale of guns.

There are more gun deaths in Brazil than in any other country, and since the early 1990s the annual number of fatalities has risen grimly.

That is until last year when 36,000 people were killed with firearms. That is still a shocking 99 deaths per day, but less than in 2003.

Smuggling

The reduction was most marked in the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro - both traditionally associated with gun crime.

The government puts the improvement down to its own disarmament policies.

A new law has placed restrictions on who can buy and carry guns, and over the past year nearly half a million weapons have been handed in to police under the buy-back scheme.

Next month Brazilians will decide whether to ban the sale of guns in a national referendum.

Opinion polls suggest that most people are in favour of such a ban.

But advocates of gun ownership say the move would fail to address the problem of illegal guns smuggled into Brazil from neighbouring countries.


SEE ALSO:
UN highlights Brazil gun crisis
27 Jun 05 |  Americas
Brazil gun law comes into force
02 Jul 04 |  Americas
Brazil police outgunned and angry
11 Nov 03 |  Americas
Brazilians march for gun control
14 Sep 03 |  Americas
'Elite' police to fight Rio gangs
09 May 03 |  Americas
Rio 'worse than a war zone'
09 Sep 02 |  Americas


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