AP Photo/Eraldo Peres
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has made headlines in the United States, in part, for his rare appreciation for gun rights. Outside of this country, firearm rights are considered non-existent. While gun rights are Constitutional rights here in the U.S., they’re not granted that status in other nations.
Earlier this year, Bolsonaro issued a pro-gun decree that would have drastically changed the landscape of gun rights in his crime-ridden South American nation.
Unfortunately for both him and the Brazilian people, the decree met stiff opposition, enough so that Bolsonaro opted to roll some of it back.
President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday pulled back on part of a decree that eases rules on firearm possession in Brazil, after widespread criticism from politicians, judges and civic groups that a measure on semi-automatic rifles would increase violence in one of the world’s most violent countries.
The government published a new decree that reverses or tightens some parts of a May 7 order signed by Bolsonaro, but much of the original remains intact and the new decree further expands the list of those allowed to carry high-caliber handguns.
The affected provisions would have allowed all people with gun licenses to carry more powerful weapons, including some semiautomatic rifles, and called for all minors to be allowed to practice sport shooting.
“We went to the limits of the law,” Bolsonaro said when he signed the first decree, surrounded by lawmakers making finger-gun gestures.
The new decree says citizens cannot carry long guns, including semiautomatic rifles, with the exception of hunters. But Brazilians with gun licenses are still allowed to possess long guns, including some semi-automatic rifles, in their homes or on their properties.
Under the new decree, children can practice shooting only if they are at least 14 and have permission from two legal guardians.
The new decree also orders the Army to draw up a list of “acceptable” firearms for civilian ownership.
Now, none of this would fly with the average American gun owner, to be sure. I mean, being told I can’t take my children shooting because they don’t meet some arbitrary age requirement? Yeah, that’s bound to be popular. Lists of acceptable firearms aren’t exactly popular either.
But Bolsonaro is in a tough spot. You can’t turn an anti-gun nation into a pro-gun paradise overnight. There’s a lot of institutional inertia at work in Brazil. People are uncomfortable with the idea of armed citizens, and he’s got to work against that.
While his initial proposal was the most he could do, his new decree is still a vast improvement over where Brazilian citizens stood before. The needle has shifted toward the right to keep and bear arms, so that’s still a big win for Brazil.
The question is, will it be enough to have a positive effect on Brazil’s staggering crime rate?
That depends on a number of factors, including the perception of criminals. Will they think there are more guns in law-abiding citizens’ hands? Will they believe there is enough to warrant them looking for a new line of work?
If so, the crime rate will go down. If not, and enough armed good guys are willing to end armed bad guys, the crime rate will still go down. If not, and if there isn’t a significant increase in people being able to respond to violence with righteous violence of their own, nothing will change.
It’s not exactly rocket science, but it is something we need to keep an eye on just in case.