Jair Bolsonaro says it’s time to abandon ‘politically correct fallacy’ about guns, in his first TV interview since being elected president of Brazil. Library picture: Jair Bolsonaro seen in June 2016. Photo credit: Agência Brasil/Fábio Rodrigues Pozzebom (CC BY 2.0)
Brazil’s far-right, pro-gun president-elect has signalled he will seek to relax his country’s firearms laws in a bid to combat a homicide epidemic that last year claimed nearly 64,000 lives.
In his first television interview since being elected on Sunday, former army captain Jair Bolsonaro said it was time to abandon what he called the “politically correct fallacy” that Brazil would be a safer place if everybody was unarmed.
“It won’t be any better. If there were three or four armed people here now, I’d be certain that some nutter wouldn’t be able to come in through that door and do something bad,” the right-wing populist told his interviewer from Record, a television channel owned by one of his powerful supporters.
In the 30-minute interview, Bolsonaro – whose sons and supporters are often seen sporting clothing or hats celebrating automatic weapons and the National Rifle Association – said he believed gun laws should be made more flexible.
“I ask myself: ‘Why can’t a truck driver have the right to carry a gun?’” he said.
“Just think about it; put yourself in the shoes of a truck driver. He nods off at the petrol station … and when he wakes up the next day his spare tyre has gone.”
Allowing more people to carry weapons and defend themselves with guns would certainly reduce violence, Bolsonaro claimed. “Statistics show that when the number of autos de resistência [police killings] carried out by the military police goes up, violence goes down the region where they took place.”
“More than safeguarding someone’s life, firearms safeguard the freedom of a people,” Bolsonaro added.
Bolsonaro’s remarks about loosening gun laws were not his only controversial comments of the night.
In an interview with another Brazilian broadcaster, Globo, he said he would withdraw government advertising from media outlets he deemed to be “lying” and refused to significantly row back threats made last week to imprison or force into exile left-wing political opponents.
“It was a fiery speech and I was referring to the top brass of the PT and also of the PSOL,” Bolsonaro said, referring to two leftwing parties.
“It was a moment of anger. It was a heated address. In Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil those who disrespect the law will feel the weight of that very same law.”
Bolsonaro’s incendiary comments provoked an immediate reaction from his political opponents. “The majority of the Brazilian population is against the right to carry weapons and wants more intelligent solutions,” tweeted former environment minister and presidential candidate Marina Silva, calling Bolsonaro’s proposal “appalling”.
“Firearms are responsible for 71% of recorded homicides in Brazil. That is why I don’t tire of saying … The more guns, the more violence,” Silva added.
Bolsonaro also told Record that “if it were up to me” social movements such as the Landless Workers’ Movement would see their activities classified as terrorism.
Earlier in the day Marcelo Freixo, a leading leftist politician, called for resistance to Bolsonaro’s attempts to criminalize legitimate activism. “Bolsonaro has clearly threatened activism. He has said he will put an end to activism … We cannot sit around waiting for this to happen,” Freixo told the Guardian. Anti-Bolsonaro protests are planned for Tuesday in cities across Brazil.
In Monday night’s interviews, Bolsonaro, who is also notorious for his racist and homophobic statements, rejected claims he was a bigot.
“I’d like to know ... what’s a minority? What are the rights of these ‘minorities’?” he asked his interviewer.
“We’re all the same. There’s no difference between me and you. It doesn’t matter what the colour of your skin is, your sexual preference, the region where you were born, your gender. We’re all equal … We can’t take certain minorities and think they have super powers and are different from the others.”