An investigation into arms seized in Brazil’s biggest city, São Paulo, has revealed the United States is the largest single source of high-caliber weapons confiscated from criminals, a trend seen in much of the region’s criminal hotspots.
According to a report by BBC Mundo, a study carried out by NGO Sou da Paz found that 56 percent of high-caliber weapons confiscated from criminals in the city between 2011 and 2012 came from overseas. Of the total number of high-caliber weapons confiscated, more than a third — 35.6 percent — originated in the United States, which one of the Sou da Paz study authors attributed in part to the ease with which civilians can get hold of such weaponry.
With the origin of 23 percent of the weapons not identified, the possibility remained that an even higher proportion could have come from the United States. Of the high-caliber weapons accounted for, Brazil itself was the second largest source, making up 21 percent of the 231 confiscated from criminals.
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While the pattern is noteworthy, small arms made up the vast majority — 93 percent — of the more than 10,666 industrial weapons seized in São Paulo during the period, with 78 percent of those made in Brazil. Among the key domestic arms producers responsible for making guns confiscated from criminals, the manufacturer Taurus was most prominent, reported BBC Mundo.
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The fact so many weapons confiscated from criminals in Brazil’s largest city originate in the country raises the question of how these weapons find their way into criminal hands and whether authorities can control this by imposing more stringent gun control laws.
A common pattern is for purchased Brazilian arms to be trafficked to Paraguay, where they are sold or exchanged for drugs and often later resold and trafficked back. In 2011, Brazilian authorities also warned that weapons were flooding into the country by sea, something likely to have a profound effect on cities such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, which are on or very close to the coast.
The fact that most of the high powered arms confiscated in São Paulo originate in the United States fits a pattern seen around the region, with the country a common source of assault weapons for criminals around the region, especially in Mexico and in Colombia
Though such a trend should be cause for greater debate on gun control in the United States, with reforms blocked even after US agents were gunned down by Mexican criminals using US-made and trafficked weapons, it is unlikely this report will have much effect.