Brazilian Voters Reject Bid to Ban Guns
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
Brazilians have apparently voted against a proposal to ban firearm sales. Thirty-six thousand people were shot to death last year in Brazil, the highest number of gun-related deaths in the world. Referendum organizers hoped that halting gun sales would stem the violence. But early results from today's referendum indicate an overwhelming majority was against the ban. NPR's Julie McCarthy is following the story in Rio de Janeiro.
JULIE McCARTHY reporting:
ELLIOTT: What do the early returns show?
McCARTHY: Well, that a referendum that would effectively ban the commerce of guns and ammunition to most civilians has been roundly rejected by a majority of Brazil's more than 100 million voters. Sixty-four percent said no to the gun ban; 35 percent said yes. Now this is a defeat of the government of President Lula, which had supported the gun ban, and a victory for those who claimed that the referendum was an attempt to take away the right of ordinary citizens to self-defense.
ELLIOTT: There were polls that showed broad support for the ban earlier in the campaign. What happened?
McCARTHY: Right. Well, the message of the no camp that opposed the ban appealed to a broad segment of the public, essentially asking: `How can you take away the right of citizens to arm themselves when the police are not protecting us?' And opponents of the ban say that fixing the police forces, that reforming policing and ridding police forces of corrupt practices and elements who are corrupt would do more to reduce violence than taking away the right to own a gun.
And then, too, of course, the government that wanted to ban guns didn't have a lot of capital to spend going into this vote. You know, President Lula's administration is embroiled in a corruption scandal over alleged vote-buying in Congress and secret slush funds to finance campaigns. And one polling institute said today the voting on the referendum is a reflection of Lula's popularity which is declining.
ELLIOTT: Quickly, can you tell us, Julie, who can now own a gun in Brazil?
McCARTHY: Well, the police, the military, hunters, security guards, people who live in rural areas and whose survival depends on owning a gun. And anyone over 25 who can demonstrate that they know how to use a gun and that they are psychologically equipped to use a gun. They can own one; they can't carry one in public.
ELLIOTT: NPR's Julie McCarthy in Rio de Janeiro.
Thanks so much, Julie.
McCARTHY: Thank you.