Brazil's Bolsonaro's Pro-Gun Moves Worry "Experts"

(AP Photo/Marina Riker, File)

Brazil is a violent country. It’s got the 12th highest intentional homicide rate (reported rate, anyway) in the entire world. It’s a dangerous, dangerous place.

It’s also a place that, historically, has some pretty strict gun control laws. Further, the laws aren’t necessarily in place to protect them if they have to use one in self-defense. It’s not a Stand Your Ground country, after all.

Yet some pro-gun moves by the nation’s president have some so-called experts concerned.

Katia Sastre was walking her 7-year-old to class in Suzano, a violent city near Sao Paulo, when she saw a young man draw a pistol on other parents standing by the school’s front door.

Within seconds, she pulled the .38 special she carried in her purse.

The off-duty police officer’s three shots killed the mugger on that morning in May 2018 and kicked off her transformation into a beacon for champions of looser gun control. Security camera footage produced medals, social media star power and a congressional run in the same conservative wave that lifted pro-gun lawmaker Jair Bolsonaro from the fringes to the presidency.

Now a lawmaker herself, she is backing Bolsonaro’s push to deliver a gun to every Brazilian who wants one, and dismisses public security experts’ concerns about the president’s four recently issued gun decrees. They will take effect next month — unless Congress or courts intervene.

“Brazilians want assurances for self-defense because they feel insecure about criminality,” Sastre told The Associated Press, blaming a 2003 disarmament law for heightened violence and more than 65,000 violent deaths in Brazil in 2017. “The guns used in those killings weren’t in the hands of citizens; they came illegally from traffickers and criminals.”

Sastre is in the minority of Brazilians, almost three-quarters of whom want stricter gun laws, according to the most recent poll. Yet the unpopular proposal is among Bolsonaro’s top priorities for deploying his recently replenished political capital, even in Brazil’s worst throes of the pandemic, with about 1,800 people dying per day.

Anti-gun activists, a former defense minister and high-ranking former police officers, including an ex-national public security secretary, warn the decrees will only add to the body count.

The two decrees causing most controversy would boost the number of guns average Brazilians can own — to six, from four currently — and enable them to carry two simultaneously. Policemen, core supporters of the president, could have eight firearms if the decrees stand.

Anti-gun activists in any given country will always claim that increased access to guns for law-abiding citizens will lead to more deaths, yet as we’ve seen here in the United States, that’s not the case. While this year looks like an anomaly, the truth is that we must remember that our own increased violence and increased gun sales are a correlation, but not causation.

It’s worth noting that, like here, it’s the rank-and-file policemen who seem to be supporting these measures while the high-ranking (read: political) former officers who are opposing it. If guns were really going to lead to more innocent blood being spilled, then wouldn’t the street cops oppose it? After all, one would expect some of those bodies to be theirs, right?

The thing is, there may well be more bodies, despite my earlier comments.

See, dead bad guys are still bodies. They’re just bodies none of us should give a damn about. More dead bad guys mean fewer bad guys to commit crimes. It’s a win.

But for activists, no matter what country, it’s more about protecting criminals than the law-abiding.

Aug 03, 2021 9:30 PM ET
Aug 03, 2021 4:30 PM ET