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Press Release—September 19, 2001

The Rio de Janeiro State Assembly passed a new law today, severely restricting the sale of small arms to civilians. In Brazil, weak legislation has facilitated the sale of small arms, making guns readily available to the public.
June 24 2001, nearly 100,00 guns were destroyed in Rio de Janeiro at a gun destruction ceremony, organized by the Rio de Janeiro state government in cooperation with Viva Rio
The new law puts into effect sixteen new requirements for those who wish to purchase firearms. These include: a US$430 tax (over six times the monthly minimum wage in Brazil), proof that the buyer requires the use of the weapon (very difficult to obtain such permission from authorities), testimonial accounts from neighbors that the buyer is a law-abiding citizen, a psychological assessment and a demonstration that the buyer has the technical training to use a firearm. The new law was passed by an overwhelming margin of 61 votes to 9, following intense pressure from civil society, led by groups such as the NGO Viva Rio, the women’s disarmament campaign and the Evangelical church.

In April of 1999, Rio de Janeiro state passed a radical law banning sales and possession of guns by civilians. Following intense pressure from the powerful gun lobby -- Brazil is one of the largest small arms producers in the world --, the law was later overturned. The courts ruled the decision was unconstitutional, declaring that such legislation had to be decided at the national, rather than the state, level. In response, a national law banning guns was proposed and presented to Congress. Viva Rio launched a grassroots campaign, collecting 1,300,000 signatures in support of the proposed legislation, which is currently in discussion before the Senate. In June the Rio de Janeiro state government, in partnership with Viva Rio, organized a gun destruction event in which 100,000 small arms that had been apprehended by police were destroyed in a public ceremony. The destruction event demonstrated widespread public support of the proposed gun ban legislation, and also drew attention to the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in New York this past July.

Due to the influence of the powerful gun lobby, it is difficult to determine when and if a complete ban on the sale of guns to civilians will be passed by Congress. In response, the disarmament movement encouraged the representatives from Rio to pass this new law, which severely restricts the sale of guns in the Rio de Janeiro state.

Contact: Jessica Galeria

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