Brazil’s new leader Jair Bolsonaro has a solution for world’s most murderous country: relax gun laws
- Jair Bolsonaro says it’s time to abandon ‘politically correct fallacy’ about guns, in first TV interview since election
Brazil’s far-right, pro-gun president-elect has signalled he would seek to relax his country’s firearms laws in a bid to combat a homicide epidemic that last year claimed nearly 64,000 lives.
In his first television interview since being elected on Sunday, former army captain Jair Bolsonaro said it was time to abandon what he called the “politically correct fallacy” that Brazil would be a safer place if everybody was unarmed.
“It won’t be any better. If there were three or four armed people here now, I’d be certain that some nutter wouldn’t be able to come in through that door and do something bad,” the right-wing populist told his interviewer from Record, a television channel owned by one of his powerful supporters.
In the 30-minute interview, Bolsonaro – whose sons and supporters are often seen sporting clothing or hats celebrating automatic weapons and the National Rifle Association – said he believed gun laws should be made more flexible.
“I ask myself: ‘Why can’t a truck driver have the right to carry a gun?’” he said.
“Just think about it; put yourself in the shoes of a truck driver. He nods off at the petrol station … and when he wakes up the next day his spare tyre has gone.”
Allowing more people to carry weapons and defend themselves with guns would certainly reduce violence, Bolsonaro claimed.
“Statistics show that when the number of autos de resistência [police killings] carried out by the military police goes up, violence goes down the region where they took place.”
“More than safeguarding someone’s life, firearms safeguard the freedom of a people.”
Bolsonaro’s remarks about loosening gun laws were not his only controversial comments of the night.
In an interview with another Brazilian broadcaster, Globo, he said he would withdraw government advertising from media outlets he deemed to be “lying” and refused to significantly row back threats made last week to imprison or force into exile left-wing political opponents.
“It was a fiery speech and I was referring to the top brass of the PT and also of the PSOL,” Bolsonaro said, referring to two left-wing parties.
“It was a moment of anger. It was a heated address. In Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil those who disrespect the law will feel the weight of that very same law.”
Bolsonaro’s incendiary comments provoked an immediate reaction from his political opponents. “The majority of the Brazilian population is against the right to carry weapons and wants more intelligent solutions,” tweeted former environment minister and presidential candidate Marina Silva, calling Bolsonaro’s proposal “appalling”.
“Firearms are responsible for 71 per cent of recorded homicides in Brazil. That is why I don’t tire of saying … The more guns, the more violence,” Silva added.
Brazil had a record number of murders last year, with homicides rising 3.7 per cent from 2016 to 63,880 according to the Brazilian Public Security Yearbook 2018.
That is likely to be more than other country on Earth by a considerable margin, although other places have higher rates of homicide per head of population.
In 2017, Brazil had a murder rate of 30.8 per 100,000 people, up from 29.9 in 2016.
Drug-scarred Mexico, which also suffered a record number of murders in 2017, had a homicide rate of around 20 per 100,000 people, while El Salvador rate of about 60 per 100,000, police there say. Venezuela’s rate last year was calculated at 89 per 100,000 by international observers, and that is likely the worst rate in the world.
India likely has the second highest number of homicides per year, with about 43,000 reported in 2016. But the population results in a relatively low rate of 3.2 per 100,000.
China’s rate is less than 1 per 100,000, while the United States’ rate is about 5 per 100,000.
Additional reporting by Reuters