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Archive for Friday, June 23, 2000

Brazil’s gun ban triggers backlash

June 23, 2000

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— Marco Aurelio Sprovieri is the owner of one of Sao Paulo's largest gun stores and cannot sell firearms.

"The government just declared my bankruptcy," Sprovieri said.

As part of a sweeping anti-crime package announced Tuesday, the government issued a decree forbidding issuing gun permits for six months in a nation where recent statistics say a killing takes place every 13 minutes.

The decree, which went into effect Wednesday, in effect imposes a nationwide ban on firearm sales, because nobody can buy a gun without a permit.

"This is not a six-month ban," Sprovieri said by phone. "It's going to last forever, because the government can and will renew the decree until the law (on gun control) is passed."

"Our store, which first opened its doors for business 75 years ago, will have to shut down. The government has wiped us out. It is really absurd. Criminals don't buy their weapons in stores."

The decree suspends issuance of gun permits until Dec. 31, and exempts only the armed forces, and federal, state and municipal law enforcement agencies.

Norman Gall, executive director of the Fernand Braudel Institute of World Economics, a Sao Paulo-based think tank that has studied violence, agrees the decree "will have absolutely no impact on diminishing crime."

"Legally purchased weapons are not the problem," Gall said. "The illegal ones, mostly bought on the contraband market are the problem."

He said the ban could even increase the demand for illegal weapons "like prohibition did with booze in the United States."

"The ban may even increase crime rates because criminals could feel bolder knowing law-abiding citizens are unarmed," he said.

Brazilians own an estimated 8 million guns, of which about 6 million are unregistered and mostly in the hands of criminals, government figures say.

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