09:40 GMT15 May 2021
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    Between the lowest legal gun ownership rate in the region and extremely large amount of guns among criminals, Brazil is set to become the most indicative example of what happens to a country after loosening gun controls.

    Brazil's newly elected right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro is about to loosen gun control legislation in the country, making it easier for civilians with no criminal record to possess a weapon, in an attempt to tackle the country's gun violence epidemic.

    Gun violence has become rampant in Brazil recently, with people resorting to bullet-proofing homes and cars, according to a report by MSN News. School-children in poor neighborhoods have reportedly become used to lying on the floor during frequent shootouts, the report says.

    Support for looser gun legislation has grown among the population, with wide ranging estimates of 40-51 percent of Brazilians supporting the idea, according to various polls — a significant increase from some 30 percent five years ago.

    "No one feels safe any more […] anywhere in Brazil," a 47-year old businessman told MSN. "Everyone has a right to defend themselves."

    Bolsonaro, a proponent of fighting violence with violence, has even adopted a signature trigger-finger salute during his presidential campaign.

    Current Brazilian law allows people above the age of 25 without a criminal record to apply to buy a gun, leaving it to police to decide whether an applicant deserves a gun. Currently, police more often give a negative answer.

    At the moment, Brazil has the lowest gun-ownership rate among Latin American countries, with an estimated eight out of 100 Brazilians possessing a gun, a stark contrast to illegal gun ownership. According to the MSN report, "illegal guns are so plentiful among criminals that drug lords give them away to their gangs."

    Most guns used in Brazilian crime were initially sold legally and then stolen. It is a widespread practice to rob a police officer of their sidearm at gunpoint. Many officers have outright sold their guns for easy cash, reporting them stolen afterwards, according to the MSN report.

    Criminals often raid gun shops and even courthouses, where massive amounts of weapons are said to be stored as evidence in criminal cases. After some 600 guns were stolen in a particularly notorious two-week period in 2017, the state of Sao Paolo abolished the practice. Other states, however, have yet to follow suit.

    Brazil has become the world's fourth-largest small arms manufacturer, with one company — Forjas Taurus — enjoying an almost complete monopoly on selling guns to security forces in the nation. Most stolen weapons on Brazil's black market are domestically-made Taurus guns.

    Opponents of the liberalization of gun legislation say this will turn Brazil into a war zone.

    "It would be like a tropical version of a Bruce Willis movie or an old-fashioned Western, where everyone is armed and bad-tempered, going around shooting each other over the smallest thing," said Rafael Alcadipani, a security expert at Brazil's Getulio Vargas Foundation, a higher education institution focused on public administration

    Others cite statistics that many murders in Brazil are performed by first offenders, stemming from everyday altercations that spiral out of control.

    Proponents, however, say that only if most law-abiding Brazilians carry a gun will criminals think twice before attempting their crimes.

    With no clear-cut plan, Brazil could soon become a revealing social experiment, MSN pointed out.


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