The use and the access to firearms in Brazil has always been a controversial subject with the population claiming that the public initiatives to control the use of guns in Brazil are inefficient and instead of protecting civilians, they would rather put them in a vulnerable situation.
According to law 10.826/03 the possession of firearm is prohibited in Brazil. There are two exceptions, which are individuals who claim that the possession of a firearm is necessary to the practice of their profession (individuals working with activities that are considered to be dangerous) or claim to be under a threat to their physical integrity.
The legal possession of a gun in Brazil is much more complicated than in the United States, for example. However, the number of deaths caused by firearm is still three times higher than in the US.
Smuggled firearms come to Brazil mostly through Paraguay, coming from USA, Argentina, Bolivia, Philippines and Uruguay. The two major destinations of this smuggling are São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Bordering areas have also been used in the illegal practice such as Foz do Iguaçu (Paraná state), Mato Grosso do sul state and Uruguaiana, in Rio Grande do Sul state.
The corruption of the police is one of the main issues to the policies against firearm smuggling in Brazil. It is estimated that police officers facilitating the smuggling receive an amount that corresponds to 10% to 20% of the cargo.
The possession of guns has been pointed out as a direct responsible for violence in Brazil. For this reason, the federal government considered the prohibition of the commercialization of firearm and ammunition in Brazil and turned the decision into a referendum.
In October, 2005, Brazilians were called to vote for the prohibition or liberation of the commercialization of firearm and ammunition. The result was that 63% of the voters were against the disarmament policy. The initiative as a whole seemed a little bit naïve as it would disarm civilians but there was no guarantee that criminals would give away their guns. Also, many voters claimed that the disarmament would make civilians too vulnerable as criminals would be more confident about the fact that, in theory, the civilian does not own a gun.
What is required to own a firearm in Brazil?
Private people who wish to own a firearm in Brazil are submitted to procedures applied by Polícia Federal do Brasil (the Brazilian Federal Police). The person interested in owning a firearm must visit one of the federal police offices and meet the following requirements:
- To be 25 years old or more;
- Present authenticated copies of the RG, CPF and proof of residence;
- Written declaration justifying why the firearm is necessary, especially for professionals performing jobs that are considered to be risky or that somehow threats their physical integrity;
- Proof of suitability, presenting a “certidão negativa de antecedentes criminais”, which is a document stating that you have not committed any crime;
- Document proving fixed residence and lawful occupation;
- Proof of physical and mental capability to handle firearms. This document must be approved by a weapons and shooting instructor and by a psychologist accredited by the Brazilian federal police;
- Copy of the firearm registration certificate;
- One 3x4 photo.
In case of subsistence hunting, the individual requesting the authorization to own a firearm must also prove the dependency of a firearm to provide his family subsistence.
The possession of guns has frequently been pointed out as the main responsible for violence in Brazil and still today we can see pro-disarmament campaigns on public areas. However, a recent study made by UNODC has shown that with fewer guns, Brazil has three times more deaths caused by gunshots than the USA, having reached 36 thousand deaths in 2010.
The study has proved that violence cannot be directly attributed to the possession of guns, but yet to poverty and social inequality.