Brazil’s recently inaugurated leftist President Lula Ignacio Da Silva has initiated a process of taking back guns from citizens after a surge in sales toward the end of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency.
The Wall Street Journal detailed in a report on Tuesday how Lula has already reversed looser gun restrictions from the Bolsonaro era and plans to force owners to register their firearms or face arrest.
“It’s time to put down your weapons, weapons that should never have been wielded,” Lula said after winning last year’s presidential election in contentious circumstances. “Guns kill and we choose life.”
Lula has now given owners an ultimatum of March 31 to bring their guns to their nearest police station for inspection and registration in a national government database.
In April, Lula will order a presidential decree forcing owners to turn over any firearms in excess of the new three-per-person rule, or face arrest and prosecution, Brazil’s justice minister, Flávio Dino, told the Journal.
“Any gun that is not declared will be considered an illegal weapon…they’ll be committing a crime,” said Dino, adding that a failure to comply could result in two to four years in prison plus an unlimited fine.
According to the Brazilian think tank the Igarapé Institute, around 1.6 million guns were purchased during Bolsonaro’s term in office, representing more than half of the total three million firearms in national circulation.
Federal deputy Paulo Bilynskyj of the country’s center-right Liberal Party was among those criticizing the new rule and denounced it as unconstitutional:
When ordinance 299 created a new crime, the crime of not re-registering your firearm, this ordinance, this new crime, violates the principle of legality, which is the basic principle of criminal law. There is no crime without a previous law that defines it. Now, in Brazil, we have inaugurated a new type of crime. This modality is the crime created by ordinance of the Ministry of Justice. Absolutely unconstitutional.
Shortly after taking office, Lula issued a separate decree suspending any further registration of guns for “hunting and sport.” The decree also prevents gun owners “from transporting loaded weapons, suspends new applications for gun clubs and reduces the number of firearms permitted per individual from six to three.”
The gun-grabbing push comes despite Brazil recording its lowest level of homicides in 15 years by the end of the Bolsonaro presidency, just a few years after the South American country reported more homicides than anywhere in the world in 2017. However, anti-gun campaigners argue that gun murders were already in decline.
Brazil’s gun laws were comparatively liberal until the turn of the 21st century, when Lula took power for the first time. In 2003, the year he took office, Lula passed some of the world’s most aggressive gun control policies that saw millions of people turn in their firearms. Lula claimed the policy was necessary to reduce rising crime rates.
In 2005, the country even held a referendum where 64 percent of Brazilians voted against a ban on firearm sales, although the restrictions remained in place until 2016 when Michel Temer took office.
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