The Self-Defeating Politics Behind Bolsonaro’s Pro-Gun Agenda

Published in the America’s Quarterly

SÃO PAULO – It’s no surprise that a president whose campaign symbol was making a gun gesture with his hands would turn out to be a pro-gun leader once in office. Even so, as Brazil struggles during a pandemic that has killed more than 240,000 people, and as homicides increased by 5% in 2020, the timing for new pro-gun rules could hardly be worse.

After a sharp decline of about 33% in Brazil’s murder rate between 2017 and 2019, according to data compiled by the Igarapé Institute, Brazil is now experiencing a renewed increase in homicides. In 2020, Brazil had 43,892 violent deaths, against 41,730 in 2019 (when around 70% of homicides were committed using firearms). While taking into consideration that homicide is always a multi-factor phenomenon, it is a consensus among experts that part of the reason for the rebound is due to renewed territorial disputes between organized crime and militias — fueled in part by firearms that travel from legal markets to illegal ones.

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