Armando Piccinini’s father was gunned down outside a bank 16 years ago, but now the 53-year-old is a gun-ownership advocate who says weapons are self-defence necessities in crime-ridden Brazil.
“Rio is on the brink of civil war, and it will soon be declared,” said businessman Piccinini at the Calibre 12 shooting range in Niteroi, near Rio.
He was with his father the day he died.
“Good people will arm themselves to defend their families, their property, and this war will be declared if the authorities don’t do something.”
Legalising gun ownership has been one of front-running presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign pledges. And it has gained momentum since the right-wing former army captain was stabbed during a rally in the southeast on Thursday.
“If it wasn’t tragic, it would be ironic,” said Rildo Anjos, 52, one of the Calibre 12 instructors.
“A pro-gun candidate suffering a kitchen knife attack; it just proves that it is man, not guns, that is guilty of violence.”
Brazil suffered a record 30.3 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016. That was 62,517 murders, 44,475 of those using guns.
“I don’t think the way to solve the dramatic problem of a country with more than 60,000 murders a year is to distribute guns,” says Marina Silva, the environmentalist presidential candidate currently running second alongside centre-left nominee Ciro Gomes in polls, behind Bolsonaro.
“On the contrary, this would increase violence.”
Silva and Bolsonaro could finish in the first two places in the October 7 election, after which they would go to a run-off three weeks later. Polls predict Silva would win that hands down.
But Bolsonaro’s campaign seems to have been boosted by his stabbing.
He’s been all over television and the Internet, giving him a huge profile lift.
“We’re all behind Bolsonaro,” said Paulo Alberto, 55, one of 210 Calibre 12 members.
“Today, the criminals are more numerous and better armed that security forces,” he added.
“We good citizens demand the right to defend our families and our possessions.”
At Calibre 12, where there is a smell of gunpowder and camaraderie, people go to learn sport shooting or to take a competence course that would earn them the right to carry a weapon.
2003 law in Brazil tightened the regulations over gun ownership, something Bolsonaro wants to revoke. — AFP