Brazilian Lawmakers Consider New Gun Law
Brazilians are no strangers to gun violence. A recent study concluded that 116 people die from gun violence in Brazil every day, the BBC noted. Over the years, lawmakers have responded to the death toll from gunfire by debating and approving laws that limit access to firearms. Yet paradoxically, lawmakers are now weighing a measure that could expand access to guns. The new gun law would lower the minimum age for gun ownership from 25 to 21.
The proposed new gun law comes with the backing of a gun industry that has a strong lobbying presence in Brazil, teleSUR explains. However, even though the law would lower the age of gun ownership, it would retain, and even strengthen, penalties for illegal possession of firearms. Also, the now mandatory one-year sentence for illegal possession would rise to two years. But supporters of stronger gun regulations say the proposal raises the prospect of more gun-related crime.
Brazil’s current framework for gun regulation dates to 2003, when lawmakers passed into law a Disarmament Statute that imposed more stringent controls on the handling, possession and sale of firearms. The gun law requires those owning guns and selling guns to be licensed. It also made it a crime to expose minors to guns. A separate law, Brazil’s Child and Adolescent Statute, makes it a crime to sell, supply or even expose an adolescent to a firearm. That crime is punishable by up to six years imprisonment.
Notwithstanding the gun laws currently in place, gun violence in Brazil is on the rise. A report compiling information from the United Nations and the Brazilian government calculated that approximately 42,000 people were killed by guns in 2012, the highest total in 35 years, the BBC reported. According to the report, contributors to the rise in gun deaths include a slow justice system, flawed police investigations and the widespread availability of firearms. While the report doesn’t state the age of the alleged shooters, it does say that more than half of those killed were younger than age 30.
Data aside, the circumstances of gun use in a country as large and diverse as Brazil are both nuanced and complicated. For some, firearms are seen as a personal right and a necessity for those living in rural areas; others want nothing to do with guns whatsoever. Whatever the outcome of the age of gun ownership bill, debate on gun laws will continue. Crafting and passing legislation that satisfies the spectrum of perspectives on the matter will require concessions from all recognizing these diverse points of view. That is one debate that cannot be settled with a gun.