Brazil’s new leader, former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro, is adamant on making sure his vow of combatting crime comes into fruition — but this time, with the citizenry’s involvement. With the majority of Brazilians disenchanted with the previous administration’s failure to stabilize the countries economic and political discord, Bolsonaro’s goal to free Brazil from its history of antagonistic treatment of weapons and good guy disarming has struck a resonant chord amongst the populace.
In 2017, Brazil suffered an unprecedented level of gun violence — an average of 175 homicides was happening every day, according to the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety. Besides easing gun laws, Bolsonaro also plans on giving the police more freedom to shoot suspects to be specific, shoot-to-kill.
“We have to stop this politically correct thing, saying that disarming everyone will make Brazil a better place — it won’t.”
Bolsonaro pointed out that the country’s strict regulations on firearms have not done anything to prevent the proliferation of firearms into criminals’ hands. In fact, he ridicules its absolute failure at doing so.
Approved in 2003, the Disarmament Statute requires legal gun owner hopefuls to be at least 25-years-of-age, have no criminal background, provide evidence of being gainfully employed, provide their permanent home address, pass a psychological exam, and have gun training. The new bill gave Brazilians two options: Get a license for a self-defense gun (which you can only store and use exclusively at home or a place of work), or get a sporting weapon, which you can store at home but permitted to bring to authorized shooting clubs — as long as you always have proper documentation in your person.
If that’s not hard enough, you must make a formal declaration to the police why you need a gun for self-defense, and your reasons as to why need to be approved by police. Slapped in the face with such harsh gun laws, numerous gun owners opted to just surrender their firearms.
This regulation came into being due to pressure from different organizations demanding the regulation of firearms use — the kind of pressure we see today in America, also due to increasing numbers of gun violence in the country. Apparently, what we’re trying to achieve is something Brazil has already done in 2003 — a plan that crashed and burned in their faces, a lesson we should gain wisdom from if anything.
The murder rate in Brazil dropped by 12% within four years after the Disarmament Statute was approved. But then criminals realized they don’t have to actually care about the law (they’re criminals, for God’s sake), and slowly gained momentum on the homicide department. 2017 was a record year for Brazil, with 30.8 people dead per 100,000. Even Mexico, with all of its cartels and gang wars, had a lower murder rate of 25 per 100,000 people last year.
Legal gun sales also dropped after the statute was implemented, but went all the way up a few years later. By last year, 42,387 brand new guns were registered by police, regardless of the difficulty to get a license.
In a move that’s the total opposite of what’s happening in the United States, a group of Brazilian lawmakers have introduced in Congress various proposals on relaxing the country’s gun restrictions. Only days after Bolsonaro’s victory, representatives pining for the president-elect’s approval and support lobbied for a bill that would lower the age limit for gun ownership from 25 to 21. The bill would also no longer require applicants to prove a need for a self-defense gun to get one.
The wave of support for Jair Bolsonaro’s run has also initiated a rise in people wanting to undergo firearm education courses, guidance on gun laws and possible changes, and target practice.
Nelson de Oliveira Jr., an ex-police officer who opened Centaurus shooting academy in São Paulo in 2003 (just before the introduction of the Disarmament Statute), is happy with the boost in demand for his services and knowledge.
“There has been a big surge in demand thanks to my man, Bolsonaro.”
“Right now, only the criminals have guns,” said Natalia Ortega, a young woman from São Paulo.
“I’m not going to run around the streets with a gun in my hand, but a criminal might think twice if normal citizens could be armed.”