1676727481 Lula tries to control the explosion of guns in the

Lula tries to control the explosion of guns in the hands of private individuals from the Bolsonaro era

When Jair Bolsonaro left power on January 1, he left behind a kind of anti-personnel mine in Brazil, from which he removed the spigot. It’s not clear when it will go up, but if it did the damage would be huge. Thanks to legislative changes pushed by the previous president, the number of firearms in private hands rose dramatically in those four years to nearly three million, according to research by two NGOs, the Igarapé Institute and Sou da Paz. The minimal number compared to the US means that it has more than doubled from 1.3 million when the far-right leader won the 2018 election. The new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is also aware of the harmful potential of these weapons, has placed restrictions on buying them or taking them out of the home and has given their owners a deadline to re-register them. Bolsonarismo has announced a legal offensive against the process.

The matter is particularly sensitive given the high homicide rates, the polarization tearing the country apart and the atmosphere following the attack on the Three Powers, perpetrated by Bolsonarists who did not use weapons but were involved with the armed forces and police.

These three million weapons are in the hands of three groups: on the one hand, the military and security forces, who buy them privately; two, civilians who have received a permit for self-defense, and three, hunters, sport shooters and gatherers, the so-called CAC category. It is the latter that drives the marked rise in Bolsonaro’s years in the heat of a speech in the name of freedom and self-defense. At the same time, it heralded a golden age for gun shops and rifle clubs. During the previous term, one was dedicated per day. Sales accelerated, especially in 2022, at the end of the presidential term, the same thing usually happens in the US when Republicans face defeat.

T-shirts with the phrase "An armed people will never be enslaved"for sale at a Bolsonaro protest in Brasilia in July 2022. T-shirts reading “An armed people will never be enslaved” offered for sale at a Bolsonaro protest in Brasilia in July 2022. Eraldo Peres (AP)

From his first hours as President, Lula wanted to send a powerful message about this gun festival. “To expand security for Brazilians,” he signed a decree that, among other things, limits the purchase of guns to three per person compared to the 60 approved by Bolsonaro, suspends permits to open shooting clubs and requires proof of which gun it is (a declaration used to be sufficient), prohibits under 18s from practicing shooting and requires CACs (hunters, shooters and gatherers) to re-register firearms.

The deadline ends on April 2 and affects weapons registered with the army and purchased by individuals from 2019 onwards, in one of the cases that illustrate the complex Brazilian bureaucracy. Now they have To them with the police. Some can complete the process online, but those who bought larger calibers will have to show them at the police station.

Subscribe to EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.

subscribe to

Only 68,000 weapons are currently registered with the police, according to the latest figures from the justice minister, former judge Flávio Dino. The new government faces two major enemies in this endeavor: disinformation circulating on the internet, such as the Justice Department’s denial of the lie that inactive military police should be banned from carrying weapons, and the federal court’s judicial offensive against Bolsonarism against an order he issued considers illegal.

Bolsonaro's election advertisement on a sideboard in an armory in Sao Paulo on October 25, 2022. Bolsonaro’s election advertisement on a sideboard in an armory in Sao Paulo on October 25, 2022. Matias Delacroix (AP)

Brazil is a high violence country and according to experts, guns have the problem that even if they are bought with all the permits, they are not immune to expanding the illegal market, which is also gigantic. And there were scandalous cases. The opportunities for registering as a CAC were so great that even some organized crime veterans chose to expand their arsenal in a store rather than resorting to the usual illegal circuits.

The parliamentary lobby of gun defenders, which includes several former Bolsonaro ministers, has mobilized to neutralize in court the obligation To their pistols, shotguns and rifles with the federal police, arguing that the deadline was insufficient and the order illegal.

No sooner had the deadline been approved than MP Eduardo Bolsonaro, a police officer, gun enthusiast and third son of the former president, announced an offensive to stop the new government. Consistent with one of his father’s most frequently used arguments, he linked the proliferation of guns to the decline in murders recorded during Bolsonaro’s tenure, which is not supported by most specialists. They tend to attribute the decline to factors such as the ceasefire between organized crime groups or the decline in the youth population. Bolsonaro 03, as he is known in the family, also assured that “only genocidal people like Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Fidel Castro disarm the people…”. Among other things, he mentioned the Cambodian Pol Pot.

The facade of an armory in Luziana, decorated with a banner "Buy your weapon here"in March 2021.The facade of an armory in Luziana, adorned with a banner reading “Buy your gun here”, in March 2021. Eraldo Peres (AP)

When he was president, in an explosive council of ministers, Bolsonaro delivered a fiery speech in favor of arming civilians: “That’s why I want the people to arm themselves. It is a guarantee that we will not have a son of a bitch imposing a dictatorship.”

Until the beginning of this century, Brazil was an absolutely permissive country with weapons, they were advertised in the press, they were sold in sporting goods stores, but this picture changed with the passage of the disarmament law passed in 2003 during the first Lula government. It involved huge sales and use restrictions that lasted practically until Bolsonaro’s arrival. The newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, in its editorial this Friday, praised the fact that “the Lula government is “coming back to sanity” on what it considers “one of Bolsonaro’s worst legacies”. She recommends that authorities act “with common sense and perseverance,” because “public safety is a complex area where populism and immediacy can have unexpected repercussions.”

Subscribe to the EL PAÍS America newsletter here and receive all the latest news from the region.

Subscribe to continue reading

Read without limits