Brazil's congress is set to vote on legislation that would eliminate many of its restrictive gun laws and recognize the right for individuals to own guns for self-protection.
"Brazil is an extremely violent country and the state has failed to resolve this problem," Laudivio Carvalho of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, who wrote the legislation, told Time.
"The population needs the right to defend themselves, their family, and their property as they are the ones being attacked. Ninety percent of assaults are being carried out with illegal weapons."
The bill would remove restrictions that require Brazilian citizens to obtain approval from government officials before purchasing firearms as well as lower the age of ownership from 25 to 21. It would also increase the number of firearms and amount of ammunition Brazilians can purchase each year. However, they would still be limited to nine firearms and 600 rounds of ammunition per year.
Gun-ban proponents in the country said more civilian gun ownership would lead to an increase in violence. "Without a doubt, we will see an increase in the murder rate," Ivan Marques, a leading disarmament advocate, said. "The number of deaths is directly related to the number of guns on the streets."
Under Brazil's current gun control regime, about 170,000 permits to purchase firearms have been issued and 500,000 firearms have been legally purchased since 2003. The country ranks among the most violent in the world and had nearly 60,000 murders last year—a rate of 28.8 per 100,000. The United States, which has recognized individual gun rights since its founding and has an estimated 300,000,000 civilian-owned firearms, had an estimated 14,000 murders last year, a rate of 4.5 per 100,000.
Opponents of the legislation argued that Brazil's constitution only recognizes a collective right to security.
"Our constitution emphasizes collective security, not individual security," Marques said. Supporters of the bill, however, said their main objective was to recover the people's lost gun rights. "I’ll tell my kids that we are recovering our rights," Rogério Peninha Mendonça, a Brazilian politician sponsoring the bill, said. "We are not arming anybody."