Brazilian President Jai Bolsonaro supports a civilian “army” by implementing looser gun policies, allowing many to own firearms.

The 67-year-old ex-army captain promised the country to “give my life to defend our freedom.” And now, one way he’s reportedly doing that is by allowing Brazilians to have an accessible process for gun ownership.

Wagner Carneiro, a former Brazilian army sergeant, said he needed the gun to protect his family. Carneiro cited a previous incident when a man asked for random directions and then suddenly pointed a gun to his head and stole his mobile phone. He believes that with a weapon, incidents like these would be more preventable.

Many are thanking Bolsonaro after the implementation of the new policy as the country loosens restrictions on gun ownership for civilians.

“Expanding the right of the population to bear arms has been one of Bolsonaro’s main electoral promises from day one,” says Fábio Zanini, a columnist for Folha de S.Paulo, a leading Brazilian newspaper. “Gun owners are one of his main electoral bases.”

Schutzenfest Poster (Source: Schützenfest Jaraguá/Facebook)

Aside from Brazilians expanding their interests around gun ownership, a lot of private-owned gun stores are thriving. In addition, there are various shooting tournaments happening all over Brazil, including the large-scale Schützenfest, where nationals of German descent can join and participate. The event will also include beer-drinking parades like Oktoberfest (but with guns).

Moreover, shooting ranges’ income has also increased this year, with new people (amateur and enthusiasts) coming in every day to practice. An average of one shooting range per day has opened since Bolsonaro’s election to office, according to the translation from the Brazilian website UOL.

Brazilians are also finding similarities to American counterparts who are claiming their “Second Amendment” rights to own a firearm.

Citizens like Rodrigo Santoro said he doesn’t trust the police to protect him and his family from well-armed criminals. So over the past years, he has trained himself to become a weapons instructor to be able to teach and help other locals learn more about safe gun ownership.

“The main principle is to defend yourself, your family, your home,” he says. “We defend guns in the hands of the good people because the bad guys already have guns.”

Bolsonaro said the leftist media has nothing to pin him on because, since the introduction of looser gun ownership policies, Brazil’s homicide rate has allegedly gone down.

“It was the biggest drop in murders … since 1980,” he told Tucker Carlson of Fox News in June. “So, Brazil is safer, thank God, because of this policy.”

However, according to NPR, homicide rates in Brazil have been decreasing even before Bolsonaro took office. On average, there are only about 22 killings “per 100,000 people.” Still, this is three times higher than the 2020 statistics in the United States.

However, there is still a risk this open policy would invite more criminals to use civilians for illegal gun ownership and trade. Cecília Olliveira, director of Fogo Cruzado, a project that maps out gun violence in the country, said that the government could redirect its efforts to fixing the broken police system instead.

“When you [say]: ‘I have to protect myself because the police are not working,’ this is not right,” she says. “The point is: We have to make the police work in the right way.”

However, many locals disagree with Olliveira saying they want to return the power to the people. Alexandre Coelho, instructor in a shooting range and a Bolsonaro supporter, said the opposition simply does not believe in the “right to self-defense.”

“They believe the state has to defend you and will always be [there] to defend you. That is a lie,” he says. “Right-wing governments believe in the right to self-defense.”

Now, many Brazilians hold the statement, “An armed people will never be enslaved,” close to their hearts.