Brazil’s Bolsanoro delivers on promises to ease gun control

World Today

Brazil's Bolsanoro delivers on promises to ease gun control

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is making good on his campaign promise to ease gun control, signing a decree that makes it easier for just about everyone in Brazil to buy a gun. Anti-gun activists said this is the wrong direction to take a country that already leads the world in total homicides. But Bolsonaro and his like-minded supporters say the measure will lessen crime and vow to introduce more gun-friendly measures.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral has this report.

Nelson Oliveira, Jr is the president of the Centaurus Shooting Club in São Paulo. He’s also an enthusiastic advocate for less restrictive gun laws in Brazil. But the recent presidential decree facilitating access to weapons has him disappointed because he thinks it doesn’t go far enough. President Jair Bolsonaro’s decree authorizes nearly all citizens to have guns, whether they live in cities with high murder rates or in the countryside.

Before now, ownership was not forbidden, but prospective buyers had to justify their need and have an individual police authorization. Oliveira, who has been in the gun business for three decades, said the decree could lead to a rebirth of ‘gun culture’ in Brazil.

“What we want now are laws allowing people to carry their weapons,” Oliveira said. “The decree changed nothing, but until now many people didn’t know they were allowed to buy guns. All this talk has made people aware that they can have guns. I think this will reduce a lot of the crime in Brazil because criminals will think twice before acting, knowing people may be armed.”

The main argument for loosening gun restrictions is the right to self-defense in a country where crime is a serious issue.  But opponents said arming society will only lead to more violence. They also point out that many of the new weapons sold legally are likely to end up in the hands of criminals.

“We see this measure as having the potential for a very negative impact,” anti-gun advocate Nathalia Pollachi said. “All the scientific research, not only in Brazil but abroad, shows that having more guns increases the rate of armed violence. You can see that when you compare the United states with other high income countries. Research in Brazil also shows that most of the weapons seized from criminals had a legal origin. So, this grey area between legal and illegal weapons is much bigger than many people think.”

Bruno Paes Manso is a crime and violence researcher at the Center for the Study of Violence at the University of Sao Paulo. He acknowledges that it’s hard to assess the decree’s short term impact on crime, but he fears the long-term impact of a ‘gun culture.’

“The discussion on the rights of people to self-defense is valid and relevant but what concerns me most is the unfolding of this ideology of war and conflict, the notion that we are not in a democracy but in a country where people need to be armed to defend their interests,” says Manso.

President Bolsonaro’s decree is temporary until ratified by Congress. Since it has the solid support of the many new conservative members, that should happen quickly. Bolsonaro said he expects legislators to propose more gun-friendly measures in the months ahead.