Brazilian Congress Sets Referendum on Gun Ban
Brazil’s Congress on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a plan for a nationwide Oct. 23 referendum on whether to ban the sale of firearms.
Brazil has the world’s second-highest gun-related death rate. On June 27, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, known as UNESCO, released a report on deaths from firearms in Brazil, calling the 462% increase from 1979 to 2003 “infernal.” It urged the government to hold the referendum on gun and ammunition sales as soon as possible.
To legally purchase a gun in Brazil, a person must take certified shooting and gun handling courses, have a permanent residence and a job, pass a psychological test and have no criminal convictions.
The arms lobby insists illegal arms traffic is responsible for most of the deaths at the hands of criminals and that honest citizens need guns to protect themselves.
The UNESCO report said that in 2003, firearms killed 39,000 people in Latin America’s largest country. The firearms-related death rate per 100,000 people in Brazil was 21.71, the highest in the world after Venezuela, UNESCO said.
More than 550,000 people died from gunshots from 1979 to 2003, including 206,000 between the ages of 15 and 24. Gunshot wounds were the prime cause of death for this age group.
Only 48 of the Senate’s 258 members voted against the bill. The referendum will ask voters: “Should the arms and ammunition trade be banned in Brazil?”
Legislative approval of the referendum, said Rangel Bandeira of the Vivo Rio social and rights group, “is a victory for Congress that is in harmony with society ... that has been fighting for years to make the country less violent.”