Brazil's far-right president Bolsonaro signs decree making it easier for people to buy guns

'To guarantee citizens their legitimate right to defense, I, as president, will use this weapon,' says president, holding a pen

Chris Stevenson
Tuesday 15 January 2019 21:11
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Jair Bolsonaro speaks after winning Brazil presidential elections

Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has signed a decree easing restrictions on civilians buying guns, the first step of a campaign promise to overturn the country's strict firearms laws.

The temporrary measure is part of a plan to overturn a 2003 law that the leader has said is tantamount to banning civilians from purchasing guns.

Mr Bolsonaro ran on a law-and-order platform, which resonated with voters in a country which logged a record 64,000 murders in 2017, with with 43,000 of those the result of firearms..

Having portrayed himself as a tough-on-crime candidate - his trademark gesture is his fingers pointng two imaginary guns - he scored well with voters frustrated with violence across the country.

Fourty-one per cent of Brazilians think gun possession should be allowed for a citizen to defend himself, a recent poll found.

“To guarantee citizens their legitimate right to defense, I, as president, will use this weapon,” Mr Bolsonaro said, holding up the pen he then used to sign the decree.

To own a gun, citizens in Brazil currently have a jump through a number of hoops. Only strictly defined groups, including police and security officials, are able to obtain a gun license and proof of residence, employment and technical and psychological capacity are required.

The measure rural areas, towns and cities where the murder rate is particularly high and to “collectors and hunters.”

Brazilians will be allowed to keep up to four guns in their homes or places of business. Any home with a child, or someone suffering from certain mental illnesses, must store the weapons in a safe.

The decree, which will expire unless it is ratified within 120 days by Congress, will remove the “discretionary” role that federal police have played in approving civilians' requests to buy guns. Mr Bolsonaro has claimed decisions on who or who may not carry weapons are completely subjective.

In 2017, the last year government data was available, about 330,000 civilians in Brazil were legally registered to have a gun. Previous studies from the Justice Ministry have indicated that around 8 million weapons are in the country illegally, although accurate numbers are hard to come by.

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The 63,880 homicides in Brazil in 2017 - equivalent to 175 a day - was a 2.9 per cent increase on the year before.

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

Reuters contributed to this report

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