Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has signed a decree making it easier for citizens to keep a firearm at home in a country with one of the world’s highest murder rates and a record 63,880 intentional violent deaths a year. The move was criticised by public security experts and lauded by his supporters. “It is a gateway to violence and terrible news for public security,” said Renato Lima, president of the Brazilian Public Security Forum, a non-government body that co-produces the annual Violence Atlas of murder rates.
At a ceremony in Bras?lia, Bolsonaro said the decree had been drafted “so that good citizens can at this first moment have peace inside their homes.” More measures could follow, he said. Sgt Anderson Valentim, a Rio police officer, said he supported the measure. “I prefer to have a good citizen armed than an armed bum,” he said. Freeing up gun ownership was a key campaign promise for Bolsonaro, who campaigned to victory on a tough, anti-crime platform and whose supporters imitate his finger pistol campaign gesture. Rules were tightened in Brazil following a 2003 decree and subsequent national amnesty where thousands of guns were handed in for destruction. “Mission accomplished, now it’s not just bandits who can have weapons in Brazil,” tweeted businessman Luciano Hang, a prominent Bolsonaro supporter, to his 166,000 followers.
The new decree makes it easier for Brazilians to keep weapons at home, waiving the requirement for an interview with a federal police officer to demonstrate the need for a firearm at home. It also increases gun licences’ validity from five years to 10.
Instead, people living in rural areas and in states where the 2016 homicide rate was more than 10 deaths per 100,000 – as was the case for every single state in Brazil – can apply to keep weapons at home. If there are children or anyone with mental deficiency living in the home, citizens applying to possess weapons need to declare they have a safe.
Bolsonaro is “letting everyone who wants to have a weapon at home have one independently of the need”, said Lima.
Legal ownership of weapons has soared over the last decade in Brazil. In 2007, 3,900 new weapons were registered by federal police in Brazil. Ten years later that had risen to 33,000, according to official data obtained by Sou da Paz (I’m From Peace), a S?o Paulo-based non-profit group.
Sgt Elisandro Lotin, head of a national association of non-commissioned police officers, said the decree would increase deaths in domestic arguments, burglaries and after disputes in bars. He noted that about 400 police officers are killed each year, many of whom were armed.
“If having a weapon was protection, we wouldn’t have these police being killed,” he said.
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