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The World

April 9, 2011

Brazil buries schoolchildren, debates gun laws



Antigun activists pushed hard for adoption of a measure in 2005 that would have banned the sale of all arms and ammunition except to police, the military, some security guards, gun collectors and sports shooters. Voters in a national referendum rejected the proposal.

Antonio Rangel Bandeira of Viva Rio, an organization that aims to rid Rio de Janeiro of arms, told the newspaper O Globo that Brazil already has good laws on controlling the sale of weapons and ammunition, but he said enforcement is poor.

"People wanting to buy a weapon must comply with 15 requisites but gun shop owners ignore them. Today anyone wanting to buy a gun can do so," he said.

Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo said the government plans to adopt measures to disarm the population, though he did not provide details on what that plan might be.

Senate President Jose Sarney said the country must draw up tougher "zero tolerance" arms control legislation. He said Congress must do its part to restrict as much as possible the ability of people like Oliveira from getting access to weapons.

Before the school attack, 11 bills were pending in Congress to weaken the current gun-control laws, including allowing the sale of weapons to off-duty prison guards, unarmed municipal guards who patrol parks, beaches and landmarks, and unarmed traffic guards. The chances of those bills becoming law now seem slim in light of the anger over the massacre.

With feeling running high, few people who support any loosening of controls were available for comment.

Diogenes Dantas, an adviser to the prosecutor's office for the military justice system, told O Globo that he supported reforming Brazil's gun laws so that people like prison guards and traffic police could carry arms while off duty to guarantee their own safety "and that of others."

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