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  • Jair Bolsonaro looks on during the launch ceremony of the agricultural action plan in Brasilia, Brazil, June 18, 2019.

    Jair Bolsonaro looks on during the launch ceremony of the agricultural action plan in Brasilia, Brazil, June 18, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 June 2019
Opinion

Senators argue that Bolsonaro usurped Congressional powers by issuing an unconstitutional decree.

Brazil's Senate hit back at Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, rejecting his gun sales decree meant to make weapons purchases and carrying rules more flexible, calling the mandate "unconstitutional."

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Brazil: Bolsonaro Modifies Decree Easing Assault Rifle Sales

Senators voted Tuesday 47-28 to approve a congressional committee proposal to annul Bolsonaro's May decree making it easier for the public to buy and carry more powerful weapons. The main reason: the presidential mandate attempts to override the nation's constitution, which first needs legislative approval, making it unconstitutional.

"The prevailing argument among Senators was that Bolsonaro ursurped Congressional powers by attempting to 'legislate by means of an executive decree.' Therefore, his decree was considered unconstitutional," reported Brasil de Fato newspaper.

"Carrying weapons is prohibited in the national territory although there are some exceptions. The president could regulate such exceptions but not expand the carrying of weapons as it does for several groups," explained Felippe Angeli, a member of the Sou da Paz Institute, a non-governmental organization that works to reduce violence in Brazil.

The president's decree allows lawyers, bailiffs, owners and managers of shooting clubs, residents in rural areas, certain journalists and truck drivers, among others, to carry weapons.

The nation's House of Representatives still needs to approve the proposal in order to fully overturn the president's order. Bolsonaro may have more support there by gun and farm lobby representatives, two groups instrumental in getting him elected last year.

During the 2018 presidential campaign, Bolsonaro promised to fight against violence in Brazil by promoting "self-defense." 

"Such a big and rich country deserves better luck; it only had one good president who made Brazil an economic power: Lula da Silva!" The meme reads: "Brazil's Senate rejects Bolsonaro's decree on weapons possession. President of Brazil already reacted on Twitter."

Bolsonaro reacted to the Senate's decision by pleading to the House to "validate" his order.

"We hope that the Lower House will not follow the Senate and validate our decree, respecting the 2005 referendum and the legitimate right to defense," tweeted the Brazilian head of state, referring, once again, to a referendum in which 65 percent of Brazilian voters rejected a ban on the sale of weapons.

"Who ceases to have access to firearms with disarmament laws? The citizen who wants to protect himself or the criminal who, by definition, does not follow the laws? The right to self-defense cannot continue to be violated! Not everyone is able to afford armed security," the president said on Twitter.

The decree raised the number of rounds of ammunition a gun owner can buy each year from 50 to 50,000, among other provisions.

Brazil's annual average homicide rate has reached 65,000, making its level "endemic," according to the United Nations.

What lies behind the president's proposal, say Brazilian analysts, are powerful transnational companies seeking to enhance their market shares in Latin America.

"We are facing the interests of large corporations," says Joao Telesforo, a member of the Brazilian Institute of Criminal Sciences (IBCCRIM). Telesforo added, "The issue of expanding gun possession goes far beyond the conservative ideal. It refers to the president's attitude of submission to the United States and its companies."

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