SAO PAULO – Nilton Gonçalves, who runs a small gun shop in downtown Sao Paulo, is excited about far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro’s pledge to loosen Brazilian gun control laws, but doesn’t expect a Bolsonaro victory to spur a big boost in sales.
A sticker on one of the pillars in his modest establishment displays a trademark quote from Bolsonaro: “My neighbor does not have weapons. He supports disarmament of civilians. In respect, I’m not going to defend him with my weapons.”
“Weapons are inherent to humankind. It’s in the Bible,” the army reserve officer said recently, promising “guns for everybody” amid increasing crime and violence in the giant South American nation.
Like many Bolsonaro supporters, Gonçalves is confident that liberalizing gun laws will intimidate prospective criminals, but he doesn’t want see the scrapping of all requirements for obtaining a firearms permit.
“If the population is armed, a bandit will think twice about robbing a restaurant full of customers,” he argues.
Under the law enacted in 2003, only people over the age of 25 with no criminal record can legally purchase guns, and only after submitting to a psychological evaluation and stating a reason for wanting a firearm.
Those restrictions prevented the average citizen from getting a gun, Gonçalves says.
Polls show Bolsonaro, an admirer of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime, is likely to defeat center-left hopeful Fernando Haddad in Sunday’s presidential runoff.