Obama to Brazilian crowd: In the U.S. you can buy any weapon at any time

Obama to Brazilian crowd: In the U.S. you can buy any weapon at any time

Congratulations to the NRA on the total elimination of U.S. firearms regulations, I guess. I’m late in hearing the news.

I won’t dwell on his claim about machine guns, as (a) he’s obviously wrong and anyone who reads conservatives blogs doesn’t need it explained why and (b) he’d probably just say that by “machine guns” he meant semiautomatic rifles fitted with bump stocks. Although he’d be wrong in that case too, thanks to Trump.

Two points instead. One: He’s discussing the Sandy Hook shooting here but a grim irony in that horror is that regulations successfully prevented the killer from buying a weapon. He tried to purchase a rifle, was told that he’d need to wait 14 days under state law while a background check was performed, and wasn’t willing to do it. He ended up stealing some of his mother’s weapons and used one to murder her. I don’t know what sort of regulation Obama has in mind to prevent that scenario apart from a total ban and mass confiscation.

Two: He said this in a country that’s notorious for its murder rate despite the fact that it has (or had, until recently) strict gun laws. In 2017 more than 30 people per 100,000 were victims of intentional homicide in Brazil; by comparison, the rate in the U.S. was around five. Jair Bolsonaro, the “Brazilian Trump,” got elected in part on a law-and-order platform vowing to liberalize Brazilian gun laws so that citizens can better defend themselves. In January he signed a temporary decree doing just that:

A former paratrooper who took office on Jan. 1, Bolsonaro eventually wants to overturn a 2003 law that effectively banned the civilian purchase of guns…

Gun laws toughened considerably under former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who in 2003 signed sweeping measures that prevented ordinary citizens from carrying guns. The law mandated background checks for gun purchases and gave federal police the right to reject applications for gun ownership for any reason…

Bolsonaro’s executive order will remove the “discretionary” role that police have in approving civilians’ requests to buy guns. He has said decisions about who can carry weapons are subjective.

The murder rate has begun to come down, although that trend began before Bolsonaro took office and remains unimaginably high by U.S. standards. The point, though, is that Obama’s making his case here about guns and violence to an audience of people who know firsthand, in the most lurid way, that tough gun laws don’t necessarily mean fewer murders. And he’s lying about his own country’s rules to do it.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023