Brazil is known as one of the most violent countries in the world, with criminals and bandits of all types armed with illegal guns.
Now, lawmakers in the South American nation want to dramatically loosen restrictions on personal gun ownership, according to this story from Time magazine, bringing the country closer to the U.S. and the right of its citizens to keep and bear arms. They believe allowing citizens to defend their families and property from criminals will have an impact on Brazil’s toll of nearly 60,000 murders in 2014.
Others think it will only make things worse.
The law, with is set to be voted on later this month, introduced a right for citizens to own firearms for self-defense or the protection of property. Currently, Brazilians must apply for a gun permit and provide a justification for why they need a gun. They also have to be at least 25 years old. Applications can be easily denied, according to Time. The new law would reduce the qualifying age to 21 and allows citizens to buy nine guns and 600 rounds of ammunition a year.
“Brazil is an extremely violent country, and the state has failed to resolve this problem,” said Laudivio Carvalho, the law’s author and member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, in the story. “The population needs the right to defend themselves, their family, and their property as they are the ones being attacked. Ninety percent of assaults are being carried out with illegal weapons.”
Alessandro Molon of the Sustainability Network says the approval of the law by a congressional committee this month is an admission of defeat.
“We are saying, ‘thanks to our incompetence, you can defend yourselves and live in a Western because we are inept,'” Molon said.
Going by the 2014 total of 58,497 recorded murders in 2014, the country has a homicide rate of 28.8 per 100,000. For comparison, the U.S. recorded 14,249 murders in the same time period, for a rate of about 4.5 per 100,000, the Time story says. However, Brazil has about 100 million fewer people than the U.S.
A disarmament law was passed in 2003, leading to the current restrictions in Brazil. About 500,000 firearms have been sold and 170,000 gun permits issued since then.
Meanwhile, police seized nearly 120,000 illegal weapons in 2014, pointing to a thriving black market.
Ivan Marques, executive director of the Sou de Paz institute, which campaigns for disarmament, is against the law, saying Brazil shouldn’t try to be like the U.S. and that the country’s constitution “emphasizes collective security not individual security.”