Brazil's Bolsonaro signs decree easing gun restrictions

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday signed a decree temporarily making it easier for Brazilians to buy guns, a first step toward a campaign promise to overturn strict regulations that have essentially prohibited civilians from bearing arms.

Bolsonaro won the presidency by running on a far-right, law-and-order platform. His message resonated with voters in Brazil, which in 2017 had a record 64,000 murders, more than any other country, with 43,000 of those homicides the result of firearms.

A one-time army captain who took office on Jan. 1, Bolsonaro wants to overturn a 2003 law that was tantamount to a ban on civilians from purchasing guns, arguing that Brazilians have the right to bear arms and defend themselves from criminals.

The decree, which will expire unless it is ratified within 120 days by Congress, will remove the “discretionary” role that federal police have played in approving civilians’ requests to buy guns. Bolsonaro has said are decisions on who or who may not carry weapons are completely subjective.

In 2017, the last year government data was available, about 330,000 civilians in Brazil were legally registered to have a gun.

Accurate data on how many illegal firearms are in Brazil is difficult to come by, but previous studies from the Justice Ministry have indicated that nearly 8 million weapons are in the country illegally.

Brazil’s heavily armed drug gangs and paramilitary militias easily obtain weapons that are made by domestic manufacturers, mainly Taurus Armas SA, or smuggled over the country’s porous borders with its neighbors.

Gangs in Rio de Janeiro almost exclusively carry Glock weapons now, and have illegally obtained an array of AR Rifles that come from American and European manufacturers.

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