Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil gun killings rise to highest level in 35 years

A military policeman aims his gun as a man walks past with his arms up during a protest in a favela near Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 22, 2014. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The use of guns by police and civilians is a common sight in Brazil.

A report on violence in Brazil says around 42,000 people were shot dead in 2012 - the highest figures for gun crime in 35 years.

The study, by the UN and the government on the most recent available data, said almost all the deaths were murders.

More than half of those killed were young men under the age of 30 - two-thirds were described as black.

The Brazilian Congress is debating a controversial bill that would limit access to firearms.

Gun crime murders have been dropping in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo but rising in the north and northeast of the country.

The northern state of Alagoas is the most violent, with fifty-five gun deaths per hundred thousand inhabitants.

The report says a slow justice system and flawed police investigations as well as the widespread availability of firearms are to blame.

It says Brazil has become a society which tolerates guns to resolve "all sorts of disputes, in most cases for very banal and circumstantial reasons."

A law to ban the carrying of guns in public and control illegal ownership came into effect in 2004.

It tightened rules on gun permits and create a national firearms register, with strict penalties for owning an unregistered gun.

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