- Title: BRAZIL: Brazil launches national disarmament campaign
- Date: 7th May 2011
- Summary: RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (FILE) (REUTERS) CLOSE OF BULLETS DISPLAYED AT A STAND IN A SECURITY FAIR VARIOUS OF VISITORS HANDLING GUNS
- Embargoed: 22nd May 2011 13:00
- Location: Brazil, Brazil
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement
- Reuters ID: LVAEYUABSD5G3I4P35N6E2CHDX3X
- Story Text: Brazil's government launched a national disarmament campaign on Friday (May 6) and boosted incentives for voluntary weapons collection as it seeks to bring down its high rates of violence.
The initiative was originally scheduled to begin in June, but it was brought forward to mark one month since the Rio de Janeiro school massacre, which left 12 children dead.
In the beginning of April, a former student of a public school in the poor outskirts of Realengo stormed into the building carrying two guns and dozens of ammunition. He shot 12 children and then himself.
The tragedy sparked controversy about easy access to guns and renewed the debate over firearms laws in the country, which is one of the world's largest weapons manufacturers.
Brazil's Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo and Rio's authorities gathered on Friday to launch the campaign that will end on December 31.
Cardozo said that authorities are aiming to reduce Brazil's high murder rates and avoid tragedies like Rio's school shooting.
"We will convince people to hand out their weapons. Let's disarm Brazil, let's reduce violence and deaths, so that tragedies like Realengo's one and so many others that happen every day, never happen again. I convoke all Brazilians to work for disarmament," he said.
Cardozo met with relatives of victims of the school massacre, a tragedy that shocked the South American nation, which had never witnessed assaults similar to the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre and the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
Raimundo Santos, who lost his 13-year-old daughter in Rio's attack, said the disarmament campaign was good for the country but did not lessen his grief.
"I don't know if this will ease the problem or even solve it. I know that I lost my daughter. I think my life will only begin after I go to a better place and meet her again," he said.
There are estimated to be more than 16 million guns in Brazil, eight million of which are not registered, according to a survey by non-governmental groups.
The government will pay compensations ranging from 100 to 300 reais ($62 to $186 dollars) to people who hand in weapons, with no questions asked.
A similar campaign was launched in 2003, when nearly 450,000 arms were collected and gun deaths fell by more than 8 percent a year after it started, according to a report by the Health Ministry.
Under existing laws approved in 2003, any Brazilian over age 25 without a criminal record can buy a gun, provided they pass background psychological checks and a shooting course. Guns must be re-registered every three years at a fee which is prohibitive for many.
Out of Brazil's 16 million guns, 90 percent are in the hands of civilians, which include heavily armed drug gang members who rule much of the country's sprawling and violent slums.
According to a 2007 report by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies, Brazil was the sixth most heavily armed society in the world. Every year, 50,000 Brazilians die with gunshot deaths, according to the country's Justice Ministry.
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