BRASILIA – Ultra-rightist President Jair Bolsonaro signed on Tuesday a decree facilitating gun ownership in Brazil, thus fulfilling one of his main campaign promises.
Giving the public greater access to weapons has been one of Bolsonaro’s flagship issues, and he had promised to take a hard line against criminality in a country where last year there were 63,880 known murders, an average of 175 per day.
Current law already permits people over age 25, without criminal records and with legal employment to own weapons once they prove that they are psychologically able to be trusted to possess them and can justify their need for them, requirements that now will be eased.
The measure does not – however – make it easier to carry weapons outside the home or, for instance, on the street.
Bolsonaro, who signed the decree at a ceremony at Planalto Palace, made reference to the nationwide referendum held in 2005 in which 63 percent of Brazilians voted against a proposal to completely ban gun sales.
“Given that the people made a sovereign decision in the 2005 referendum, to guarantee themselves that legitimate right to self-defense, I, as president, am going to use this weapon,” said Bolsonaro, displaying the pen with which he then signed the decree.
“The people decided to buy weapons and ammunition and we cannot deny what the people wanted at that time,” the president added at the signing ceremony, at which some of his Cabinet ministers, including Justice and Public Safety Minister Sergio Moro, were present.
At his inauguration on Jan. 1, Bolsonaro reiterated his desire to facilitate gun ownership for “good citizens” so that they can defend themselves and fight crime in one of the world’s most violent countries.
The measure, Bolsonaro said, seeks to allow “good citizens to be able to have peace within their homes.”
According to a survey published by the Datafolha institute late last year, the percentage of Brazilians who feel that owning guns must be “prohibited since it represents a threat to the lives of other people” increased from 55 percent in October, when Bolsonaro was elected president with a 55 percent majority, to 61 percent in December.
The decree will expire in 120 days unless it is ratified by the Brazilian Congress.