Even though it has one of the highest murder tolls on the planet, Brazil is eyeing a law under which anyone over 21, including people accused of crimes or convicted of less serious crimes, would be allowed to purchase up to nine firearms a year and 50 rounds of ammunition a month. One critic has described the move as risking a “Wild West” scenario.

A 2015 report on violence in Brazil says about 42,000 people were shot dead in 2012, the highest figure for gun crime in 35 years, according to the BBC. “More than half of those killed were young men under the age of 30 — two-thirds were described as black,” the BBC reports.

A draft law scaling back current limits has already been approved in committee and is due to go to the country’s lower house of Congress in November.

From Digital Journal:

At present, weapons can only be bought legally by people obtaining a license on a case-by-case basis.

Supporters say freeing up gun sales will allow people to protect themselves in a country plagued by violent robbery and intense confrontations between drug gangs and police, with some 40,000 gun-related deaths a year.

“Our proposal is to guarantee the good citizen’s right to self-defense,” said the law’s author Laudivio Carvalho, from the powerful centrist PMDB party.

But opponents fear that Brazil’s orgy of gun violence would simply spin further out of control.

“It’s a return to the Wild West,” said Ivan Valente, a deputy from the leftist PSOL party.

The bid to overturn the existing 2003 law on regulations is part of a conservative agenda in Congress where Evangelists and the so-called “bullet-caucus” of right wing politicians with links to the security services are a powerful force.

Related draft laws include seeking a legal definition of family that would exclude homosexual couples and criminalizing abortion for women in cases of rape.

The same congressional wing is allied to the agricultural lobby and is pushing for legislation that critics say would seriously weaken indigenous tribes’ control over their ancestral lands.

One of the most noted members of this right-wing caucus is Eduardo Cunha, the lower house speaker who is the key figure in an ongoing battle by opponents of leftist President Dilma Rousseff to seek her impeachment.

Deputy Joao Rodrigues, from the right-wing PSD party, said the gun law is necessary because the state “does not fulfil its obligations” to defend citizens.

“We need a cleansing. These criminals walk around and kill as they want. These people should be put out of business one way or another,” he was quoted as saying by O Globo newspaper.

But in a society where mob justice and lynchings of suspected criminals is common, some worry that more availability of weapons will not bring peace.

“A weapon is a great ally for someone on the attack, but the worst enemy of someone trying to defend himself,” said Ivan Marques, director of the Instituto Sou da Paz, a think tank studying violence.

“We need to disarm people, not arm them,” said Jose Mariano Beltrame, the head of Rio de Janeiro state’s security department.

Read more here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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