Brazil looks to loosen gun laws

Brazilian reserve militaryman Rildo Anjos shoots at a targetImage copyright
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Practice at a Rio de Janeiro gun club: shares in one manufacturer have recently jumped

Brazil’s incoming far-right president has said he will seek to issue a decree loosening the country’s gun laws.

Jair Bolsonaro, who takes over on 1 January, had made the pledge a key part of his presidential campaign.

Brazil currently has strict gun ownership laws, requiring any prospective owners to undergo psychological tests.

But Mr Bolsonaro has said more guns would allow “good people” in Brazil help combat violent crime.

What are Brazil’s current gun laws?

In response to Brazil having one of the world’s highest murder rates, the Senate passed the Disarmament Statue in 2003.

Under the statute, which stands to this day:

  • only strictly defined groups of people, including police and security officials are able to obtain a gun licence
  • anyone using a gun without a licence could face four years in jail
  • proof of residence, employment, technical and psychological capacity are needed to get a licence.

In the first year after the statue was introduced, the murder rate in Brazil dropped by 8%. In the same time, about 500,000 guns were seized by police under a buy-back scheme.

How bad is the murder rate in Brazil?

Since that drop, murder rates have started to climb again.

According to the World Bank, Brazil has the eighth highest murder rate in the world, behind countries such as El Salvador and Jamaica.

The Brazilian Public Security Forum, which collects and analyses crime data from state and federal government, there were 63,880 homicides in Brazil last year (equivalent to 175 a day) – an increase of 2.9% on the previous year.

A number of factors have been identified, including Brazil’s role as a hub in the international cocaine trade, and dwindling police resources.

Impoverished parts of north-east Brazil in particular has seen a large increase in recent years. Over the past decade the murder rate in Rio Grande do Norte state has soared by more than 250%, according to the government-affiliated IPEA research body.

Between 2016 and 2017, there was also a significant jump in the number of people killed by police in Brazil – up 20% to 5,144.

What has Bolsonaro promised?

Security became one of the key themes of the presidential campaign, which Mr Bolsonaro won in October with 55.2% of the vote.

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Media captionFar-right politician Jair Bolsonaro will be Brazil’s new president. But who is he?

During his campaign, he would often make the case for more people owning guns, adding that gangs had continued to obtain guns despite strict legislation.

“Every honest citizen, man or woman, if they want to have a weapon in their homes – depending on certain criteria – should be able to have one,” he said.

Mr Bolsonaro, a former paratrooper, is an avid supporter of America’s National Rifle Association, and the door of his campaign office was emblazoned with the slogan: “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

Reuters reports that shares in Brazilian gun maker Taurus Armas SA climbed by about 88% year-on-year amid expectation gun rights would be relaxed.

In his tweet on Saturday announcing the decree, Mr Bolsonaro said those with criminal records would continue to be prevented from owning guns.

A poll last August found that 58% of Brazilians believed that restrictions should continue on gun ownership. But any decree Mr Bolsonaro puts before Congress is likely to pass with a majority.

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