Brazilian gun laws are some of the strictest in the world. President Jair Bolsonaro started to reform the administration of the laws in 2019. He did this by using his power of Presidential decrees. This changes the rules of how the law is administered. Much of the abuse under the law was through the administrative rules. Changes to the law must come through the Congress, those changes have not been enacted yet.
Because most Americans do not read Portuguese, Brazilian lawyer and licensed Professional Shooter, César Mello, made a youtube video, in English, to educate the rest of the world about Brazilian gun laws, their history, and what may be expected next.
While César apologizes for his English, it is quite understandable. I contacted César, and he helped clarify the information he is providing.
Because it is not fluent, colloquial, American English, I have condensed and summarized the most interesting and important points César makes. It is worth watching the video, to see the impact of the Brazilian gun laws on the Brazilian population. The video is 30:51 minutes long.
A major point from César is, prior to 1997, the gun laws in Brazil were almost non-existent. People could buy guns and ammunition easily. Carrying a gun without a permit was not a criminal act. It was like an American civil penalty, similar to a traffic ticket.
In 1997, this changed. The socialist president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, made carrying a gun without a permit a crime.
In 2002, the extreme leftist, Lula de Silva, was elected President. Lula bribed legislators to pass the extremely restrictive Brazilian gun legislation of 2003. César says this is indisputable; it is a matter of public record in Brazil. Lula has been convicted and is serving prison time for corruption, although not the specific corruption involving the gun law.
The 2003 law was extreme.
- All permits to conceal carry guns were banned, except as the police allowed, by their complete discretion.
- Only pistols of .380 caliber or less could be purchased by ordinary citizens.
- Guns were only allowed to be possessed in the home. No transport of guns was allowed. No transport to a range, or to be repaired.
- If you attempt to take a gun anywhere to shoot it, you would have committed a crime.
To summarize, with enormous expense and difficulty, you might be able to purchase a gun, but you could not train with it. Only 50 rounds of ammunition per gun was allowed per year. You were not allowed to take it anywhere to shoot the gun; You could not be certain the gun would even fire. If you actually used the gun in self defense in the home in Brazil, you have a good chance of going to prison.
In 2005, there was a referendum on the total ban of the purchase of guns or ammunition by ordinary Brazilian citizens. It lost by a large margin.
In Brazil, all gun laws are federal. The 2002 law left the administration of the law up to the executive branch. President Lula, having lost the referendum, applied extraordinary bureaucratic restrictions to make it difficult to purchase and own a gun.
First, as mentioned, obtaining a permit to purchase a gun, to keep in the home, was completely at the discretion of the police. A psychological evaluation was required. No criminal conviction, or accusation of a criminal act, was allowed.
The cost of the paperwork is about half the cost of a gun. The documentation is expensive and time consuming to create.
The documents must all be taken to the police, who then evaluate them over a period of months. It commonly takes 8 months to get permission to buy a gun. Then the permission slip must be taken to the gun store, a gun selected, and the document to take possession of the gun obtained. That document takes another four months, typically.
No guns may be imported under the administrative rules, so only Taurus, made in Brazil, is available. Only CBC ammunition is available.
It takes about a year to complete the paperwork, get police permission, and obtain a gun. The permit is good for three years, then the entire process must be done again. If, at any time, the police decide your reason to own a gun is not sufficient, you can be required to turn the gun over to them. The decision that the reason to own a gun is insufficient is completely arbitrary.
To refuse is a serious crime which can result in incarceration. If an illegal gun is used for defense in the home, the homeowner has committed a crime with greater penalties than the criminal who broke into the home.
As with Venezuela, the law put in place by Lula Siva allowed for police discretion. In practice, this meant the politically connected supporters of Lula were able to get permits to have guns, just as in Venezuela, the supporters of Chavez, and now Maduro, are allowed guns.
Crimes of violence in Brazil became extremely brazen, carried out in broad daylight, because the criminals knew law abiding people no longer had guns.
Jair Bolsonaro, the new President of Brazil, known as “Trump of the Tropics”, ran on two promises:
- More economic freedom
- Restore the ability of ordinary people to legally buy guns and use them for self defense.
The people of Brazil understood that a politician who trusted them with guns, could be trusted, because he did not fear them. The Brazilian people understood that gun bans did not work.
Jair Bolsonaro won the election because of the gun issue.
What is happening now that Jair Bolsonaro is President of Brazil?
With a presidential decree, President Bolsonaro has eliminated the discretionary power of the police to prevent an otherwise qualified individual from buying a gun.
There were complaints this was insufficient. His supporters wanted greater reform, a return to the gun laws before 1997.
In Brazil, as in the United States, the media attack President Bolsonaro daily. They say he is incompetent and cannot govern. The media is attempting to push the President into using bribes, as did his predecessors, to buy votes to get legislation passed. Then they would expose the bribes and use the legal system to drive him from office.
But President Bolsonaro is not taking the bait. He refuses to pay bribes to legislators. He says he will arrest people who ask him for bribes.
Recently, President Bolsonaro issued his second presidential decree about guns. This is legal in Brazil. President Bolsonaro used the same power that President Lula did to enact the absurd administrative rules, to reform them. Bolsonaro overrode the equivalent of police chiefs and sheriffs, which he supervises through the Minister of Justice. In Brazil, if the person supervised has authority to do something (such as issue a permit), the person who supervises them has the same authority.
In his second presidential decree, President Bolsonaro changed the rules so that people in Brazil can buy guns of any common caliber. They can buy ammunition of up to 5,000 rounds, instead of only 50 rounds, per year. He allowed gun owners to transport their guns to ranges and to train with them.
In his second presidential decree about gun laws, President Bolsonaro reversed Lula’s decree about eligibility for the carry permit. Lula’s decree required people to prove they were at risk; Bolsonaro’s decree reverses the burden of proof for certain high-risk groups. Under President Bolsonaro’s decree, the police have to prove a member of those groups is *not* at risk, in order to refuse them a permit.
Brazil is a very dangerous country. In 2017 there were over 63,000 murders, 70% of them committed with mostly illegal guns. The police clearance rate for crimes is about 8%. It is impossible for the police to show these high risk groups are not at risk.
The categories of gun owners President Bolsonaro authorized to carry guns are these:
Lawyers: Being a lawyer in Brazil can be very dangerous. Because of the low clearance rates for crimes, people sometimes see killing or threatening the opposition lawyer as an alternative to using the legal system. Cesar Mello was kidnapped and forced to give up his car at gunpoint. It happened in broad daylight, on a major road, with numerous people who saw it but could do nothing.
Truck Drivers: Outside the cities, police presence is virtually non-existent. Teams of criminals on motorcycles use guns to hijack trucks with regularity. Many truck drivers are murdered.
Professional Shooters: In Brazil, this means people who have gone to the extra trouble of obtaining a permit associated with the military, that allows for more calibers and access to sufficient ammunition to practice. These shooters are allowed to transport their gun to a range to practice. But the gun must be unloaded and, preferably, disassembled. This made their gun a prime target for theft. Now they will be able to carry their gun loaded and concealed.
Private Security Guards: Guards that are trusted with a loaded gun for security of businesses were required to store the gun and go home without it. Now they will be allowed to obtain permits to own a gun and carry it.
This is a total of about 1 million people in a nation of 217 million.
For the first time in 20 years, criminals will not know if the person they are attacking is armed or not. It will create uncertainty and fear in the criminal world. The homicide rate will drop.
The experience of Brazil will prove the restrictive gun laws were about control, not security.
The people of the world need to watch what is happening in Brazil. Brazil’s experience will show the false premise of gun control laws.
César Mello, asked that I include information that early reports are showing a 25% drop in Brazil’s homicide rate, in the first quarter of 2019. If this trend continues, 16,000 lives will have been saved in the first year of President Bolsonaro’s time in office.
©2019 by Dean Weingarten
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