Brazil’s Lula restricts civilian gun possession, reversing Bolsonaro policy

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Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed a decree Friday tightening restrictions on civilian access to guns in Brazil, in a move aimed at reversing the pro-firearms policies of his right-wing predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.

The decree reduces the number of guns civilians can possess for personal safety from four to two, reduces the allowed ammunition for each gun from 200 rounds to 50 and requires documentation proving the need to hold the weapons.

It also bars civilians from owning 9mm pistols, restricting them to members of the police and military.

“It’s one thing for the regular citizen to have a gun at home for his protection, as a guarantee, because some people think this is safety. Let them have it. But we cannot allow gun arsenals to be in the people’s hands,” Lula said Friday during a signing ceremony.

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During Bolsonaro’s presidency from 2019 through 2022, the former president had said “good citizens” should be entitled to protect their families and their assets, and loosened rules on the possession of guns and ammunition. Though Brazil has no constitutional right to bear arms, Bolsonaro argued that “an armed populace will never be enslaved.”

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Estimates of the number of guns in civilian hands more than tripled to 2.9 million in a country of 214 million people, according to the Instituto Sou da Paz, a non-profit that monitors public security.

That remains far lower than in the United States, and despite the increase in guns, Brazil’s rate of slayings remained stable during Bolsonaro’s term. The number of homicides during his last year in office, 2022, was at about 47,500 and roughly even with the 2019 rate, according to a report published Thursday by the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety.

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The Igarape Institute, another public security think tank, along with Sou da Paz, lauded the new restrictions in a statement saying they were “another step to regain responsible parameters and legal security in controlling guns in Brazil.”

Lula’s government is encouraging citizens to sell firearms that are not allowed under the new rules before the end of the year or face confiscation by the Federal Police.

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The new rules also solidify the status of the Federal Police as official watchdog over guns, sidelining the military, which previously held that role.

In May, Lula’s justice minister had imposed a deadline for citizens to legally register firearms with the Federal Police. That previously was typically done by the military, but Lula’s new left-wing government has cast doubts on the reliability of the armed forces in carrying out that function because of the tendency of many of their members to support Bolsonaro.

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“We will keep on fighting for a disarmed country. Who should be well equipped with guns is the Brazilian police and the federal armed forces,” Lula said.

Shooting ranges that proliferated during Bolsonaro’s government and were relatively unregulated now face new restrictions. They can operate only from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and must be at least 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) away from schools.

Lula’s new policy also changes the duration of a gun permit from 10 years under Bolsonaro to new limits of three to five years, depending on the holder.

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