By: José Niño
Although America is known for its unique right to bear arms, other countries have attempted to emulate it in recent times. One that stands out is Brazil. Ever since Jair Bolsonaro was elected president in 2018, gun politics has changed in an unexpected way in the South American country.
When one glances at the country’s crime problems, it becomes clear why the Brazilian Right is becoming receptive to looser gun laws. Brazil is among the most violent countries in the world. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's International Homicide report, Brazil has the 12th highest intentional homicide rate on the planet. Similarly, Citizen’s Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice report revealed in its 2020 report that 10 of the most violent cities in the world are found in Brazil.
Tom Knighton of Bearing Arms correctly observed that the South American country has “some pretty strict gun control laws.” Gun researcher John Lott confirmed in a past interview with the Council on Foreign Relations that the average police response time in Brazil is more than an hour in some of Brazil’s poorest regions. For a country with such shoddy public order, those kind of response times make criminal encounters even more lethal.
Generally speaking, Brazil’s gun control laws are quite draconian. Brazilians have to be 25 years old, possess a license, pay registration fees, and undergo extensive background checks just to acquire a firearm. As a result of Brazil’s stiff gun regulations, there are only 1.2 million legally owned weapons in the country of roughly 210 million people, according to Deutsche Welle.
Since Bolsonaro took office, though, he has been able to implement several reforms that have made it easier for lawful Brazilians to acquire firearms via executive decrees. Now, Bolsonaro may be receiving help from lower-level elected officials.
Katia Sastre, a member of the Brazilian Chamber of the Deputies, has been one of the leading advocates of relaxing Brazil’s gun laws. She was famously involved in an incident back in 2018 when she confronted an armed assailant at her child’s school. While the criminal drew a pistol on other parents who stood close to the school’s front door, Sastre pulled out her .38 special from her purse and took out the criminal. Sastre’s heroism turned her into a national icon and soon propelled her to higher office.
At the moment, Sastre is backing Bolsonaro’s efforts to allow as many law-abiding Brazilians as possible to arm themselves. Like any other effort to expand the right to bear arms, the current pro-gun plan in Brazil is encountering significant pushback from gun control activists, a former defense minister, and police officers who previously held high-ranking posts. These figures used the typical arguments that gun controllers in the U.S. use to discredit any effort to relax gun control laws: having more firearms readily available for citizens to use translates into more crime.
So far, Bolsonaro’s newest decrees would allow for the average Brazilian to own six firearms and carry two firearms at the same time. Given how incompetent law enforcement in Brazil is and how out of control crime has become in the country, Brazilians would be best served by loosening up its gun laws.
Oftentimes, the best form of public security is a citizenry’s ability to bear arms. Although it’s unlikely that Brazil will fully adopt America’s Second Amendment standards anytime soon, any step in that direction will help lawful Brazilians put up a fight against the criminal class that runs rampant across the country.
The first step in achieving this goal is for Brazilian reformers to ignore the advice of “experts” and only look at the U.S.'s experience with concealed carry reform during the last four decades. For any country looking to overhaul its gun policies, the U.S. can, at least for the time being, serve as a north star.
José Niño is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Sign up for his mailing list here. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at email@example.com. Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.