Gun enthusiasts at the Shot Fair Brazil in Joinville, in Santa Catarina state, Brazil, in August 2022

Judge in Brazil suspends easing of gun laws over fears of electoral violence

Gun lovers at Shot Fair Brazil in Joinville, State of Santa Catarina, Brazil, August 2022 – Copyright AFP John THYS

A Brazilian Supreme Court judge on Monday temporarily suspended several provisions by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro that allowed people to buy guns, citing the “risk of political violence” during the election campaign.

“The start of an election campaign exacerbates the risk of political violence,” which “makes the need to limit access to guns and ammunition extremely and exceptionally urgent,” Judge Edson Fachin wrote.

Fashin said he made the decision “in light of recent and unfortunate episodes of political violence.”

He did not specify whether he was referring to local events, such as the July assassination of a Workers’ Party (PT) treasurer by pro-Bolsonaro cops, or Thursday’s attempted assassination in neighboring Argentina of Vice President Cristina Kirchner.

According to the court, Facin’s decision establishes that only “people who specifically demonstrate a real need” can have guns, one of the rules that Bolsonaro, a strong proponent of gun ownership, loosened with his decree.

It also specifies that the acquisition of restricted-use firearms should only be permitted on grounds of “public safety or national defense, and not out of self-interest”, as for hunters, sport shooters, and collectors who may purchase assault rifles.

This category of gun buyers, whose registrations jumped from 117,000 to more than 673,000 under Bolsonaro’s administration, is of particular concern to security experts, who fear episodes of violence as polarized October 2 elections approach.

The vote pits Bolsonaro against leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Bolsonaro’s persistent doubts about the e-voting system have raised fears that his followers will reject any possible defeat and could repeat scenes such as the storming of the US Capitol in 2021 after former President Donald Trump lost the election.

Monday’s decision takes effect immediately until the full federal Supreme Court completes its deliberations on the constitutionality of the decrees suspended last year.

Lawyer Bruno Langeani, a member of the NGO Instituto Sou da Paz, told AFP the decision was “important” and “indicates an understanding on the part of the Supreme Court that weapons can be a destabilizing element in an election.”

Brazil’s highest electoral court last week restricted the carrying of weapons at polling stations, another sign of concern about potential episodes of violence.

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