The Self-Defeating Politics Behind Bolsonaro’s Pro-Gun Agenda

The Self-Defeating Politics Behind Bolsonaro’s Pro-Gun Agenda

President Jair Bolsonaro gives his finger-gun salute on the campaign trail in 2018. SÃO PAULO – It’s no surprise that a president whose campaign symbol was making a gun gesture with his hands would turn out to be a pro-gun leader once in office. Even so, as Brazil struggles during a pandemic that has killed more than 240,000 people, and as homicides increased by 5% in 2020, the timing for new pro-gun rules could hardly be worse. On Feb. 12, President Jair Bolsonaro challenged the boundaries of legality, to put it mildly, by issuing four new pro-gun presidential decrees. The orders, effective immediately, curb the Federal Police and Army’s power to regulate guns and make it easier for Brazilians to acquire them. The changes include upping the limit on the number of weapons citizens can purchase, from four to six. Members of the judiciary, prosecutors and the federal, state or district criminal police, plus prison officers and guards, are now able to buy eight. The new decrees also exclude specific items, such as heavy projectiles, from the list of products the army regulates. Legally, what Bolsonaro is doing is eroding the 2003 Statute of Disarmament law, which permits the sale of guns but imposes strict limits on who can purchase and carry firearms. For the most part, anyone outside of law enforcement is prohibited from owning firearms. Bolsonaro’s actions are an example of what Brazilians call “gnawing at the edges.” That is, he has left the 2003 law in […]

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