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Brazil prosecutor’s office seeks suspension of gun decree

Brazil’s federal prosecutor’s office said Wednesday that it has filed a lawsuit seeking the immediate suspension of a decree by President Jair Bolsonaro loosening regulations on guns and ammunition.

The lawsuit argues that the president infringed on legislative territory, saying the decree conflicts with current laws and also “jeopardizes the public safety of all Brazilians.”

Co-signed by five federal prosecutors, the suit says the increase in sales of firearms to be expected under the decree would have a lasting impact on the amount of weapons circulating in the country.

“The measure has an immediate impact on the criminal sphere,” read the suit that was filed Tuesday with a federal court in Brasilia, the capital.

Bolsonaro ordered the reversal of limitations on who can acquire a firearm and of strict supervision procedures. Under the decree, shooting instructors, gun collectors, hunters, tax collectors, bus and truck drivers, elected officials, lawyers, rural residents, private security guards and even journalists on assignment with police can acquire guns without authorization from the federal police.

The decree also increases the amount of ammunition gun owners can buy, from 50 rounds a year to between 1,000 and 5,000 rounds, depending on their licenses.

Prosecutors specifically criticized the loosening of regulations for people living in rural areas. According to the Brazilian think tank Igarape, some 18.6 million “rural residents” could acquire firearms more easily.

Bolsonaro has close ties with the “rural” caucus. The president, a far-right former army captain, ran a tough-on-crime presidential campaign last year, vowing to allow Brazilians to protect themselves against criminals in the nation that leads the world in total annual homicides. “The life of a good citizen has no price,” Bolsonaro said at the recent opening of a public security intelligence center in the state of Parana.

The decree issued last week has drawn criticism from prosecutors and some politicians.

On May 8, the Sustainability Network party filed a petition with the Supreme Federal Tribunal, arguing that the decree is unconstitutional because it makes changes in law that require approval by Congress. Supreme court Justice Rosa Weber asked Bolsonaro and Brazil’s justice minister to provide more information on the decree before she could rule on the case.

Talking on TV channel Globo Wednesday night, Justice Minister Sergio Moro said that if there was any “invalidity” with the decree, it was up to the supreme court or Congress to review it.

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