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UN: Brazil Ranks Second Worldwide in Gun Deaths

A U.N. report says Brazil ranks second in the world for deaths by firearms, behind Venezuela. Officials attribute much of the gun violence to illegal drug and gang activities. A senior lawmaker is calling for swifter action to ban firearms.

According to the U.N. Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization survey of 54 countries, Brazil averages nearly 22 gun-related deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, second only to Venezuela.

The president of Brazil's lower house of Congress, Severino Cavalcanti said the report is a wake up call for authorities. "It is deplorable this is happening," said Mr. Cavalcanti after receiving the report. "We need to do everything we can to safeguard our society."

Officials say many of Brazil's gun deaths are drug and gang related. Here in Rio de Janeiro, drug gang members often roam the streets of the city's hillside slums, known as "favelas," toting assault rifles and other firearms.

Brazilian lawmakers are considering a national referendum that would ask Brazilians if the sale of guns and ammunition should be prohibited. Mr. Cavalcanti says he is working to speed the process along. The referendum is scheduled for October.

Brazil has taken steps to try to curtail gun violence. A new gun-control law went into effect in September. It includes stricter control of weapons imports and mandatory registration of all firearms. Gun licenses will also have to be renewed every three years.

In July, Brazil began a nationwide campaign that compensates citizens for turning in firearms, whether registered or not. Those who give their guns to federal police receive between $40 and $120, depending on the size and caliber of the weapon.