Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has urged “everyone” in the South American nation to purchase a rifle as part of his efforts to ease gun laws in the country.
Bolsonaro, who has persistently attempted to change Brazilian laws to allow more citizens to bear arms “for self-defense,” said in a speech outside the Alvorada Palace on Friday that gun opponents should stop bothering gun buyers.
During his presidential election campaign, Bolsonaro had pledged to relax Brazil's gun laws, arguing that citizens would then be able to use their own weapons to combat the country's extensive and growing crime and violence.
Since his election, the Brazilian president has issued a number of decrees to implement the controversial pledge. As a result, it is now much easier to purchase and carry firearms in Brazil.
Consequently, gun ownership across Latin America’s largest and most populous nation has surged by 65 percent two years into Bolsonaro's term.
According to local press reports, while there were nearly 700,000 legal private firearms in private ownership in 2018, hunters, collectors, and citizens now own 1.2 million weapons.
As part of a study conducted by the Brazilian daily newspaper O Globo, the figures were obtained from Brazil’s federal police and the military.
The development came amid numerous protest rallies across Brazil demanding the impeachment of the country’s controversial president.
He is widely dubbed as “Tropical Trump,” referring to former right-wing US president Donald Trump since many of his policies closely resemble those of ex-American president.
Trump was impeached twice by the US House of Representatives but saved by Senate refusal to uphold the legislative ruling.
Like Trump, Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for downplaying the coronavirus pandemic from the outset, opposing lockdown measures and plugging unproven medical treatments for the deadly disease.
In massive protest rallies last month in major cities of Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and elsewhere, people carried banners with slogans such as "Bolsonaro must go" or simply "500,000."
Brazil’s former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva described the huge COVID-19 death toll under Bolsonaro’s watch as “genocide.”
"500,000 deaths from a disease for which there is now a vaccine, in a country that has been a world leader in vaccination. There is a word for that: genocide," Lula wrote in Twitter post in June, adding, "Solidarity with the people of Brazil."