2022 Race

Fearing political violence, Supreme Court justice suspends easier access to guns

Fearing political violence Supreme Court guns
The Brazilian Supreme Court building. Photo: Fellipe Sampaio /SCO/STF

Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin on Monday suspended rules, passed through presidential executive orders, which made it easier for Brazilians to purchase and bear firearms. The move aims at curbing the risks of political violence during the electoral season.

Justice Fachin issued injunctions in response to requests by two left-wing parties, the Workers’ Party and the Brazilian Socialist Party. Both groups are on the same presidential ticket this year, with the former nominating former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as its presidential candidate — and the latter naming former São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin as Lula’s running mate.

The injunctions were issued in three separate lawsuits that were actually presented before the electoral season — one of them in 2020 and two in 2019, the first year of the Bolsonaro administration. Some of the measures suspended by Justice Fachin’s injunction today have already been revoked by President Bolsonaro himself.

However, the trial was suspended in September 2021, when Justice Nunes Marques requested an adjournment to have more time to review the case. Justice Marques was President Bolsonaro’s first Supreme Court nomination in 2020 and has voted in the minority in several recent major cases — notably siding with Mr. Bolsonaro’s interests.

Following the suspension, the plaintiffs requested that Justice Fachin issue an expedited injunction — that is, an emergency decision by Mr. Fachin alone rather than by a vote of the entire 11-justice bench. 

Looser gun regulations

One of the measures suspended today made it easier to obtain a gun permit by removing the obligation for the Federal Police to verify information on such requests. “I understand that the beginning of the electoral campaign exacerbates the risk of political violence,” Justice Fachin wrote.

“In light of recent and regrettable episodes of political violence, the precautionary measure must be granted to protect the very object of deliberation of this Court. In other words, the risk of political violence gives extreme and exceptional urgency to the need to grant the injunction”.

Justice Fachin did not refer to specific episodes of political violence.

On July 9, a pro-Bolsonaro prison guard shot dead a member of the Workers’ Party who was throwing a Lula-themed birthday party in the southern city of Foz do Iguaçu. Mr. Guaranho is in jail and will now answer for aggravated homicide.

Last month, the House Human Rights Committee held a public hearing on the security of the 2022 elections. Edson Borowski, a coordinator at justice system workers union Fenajufe, sees “extreme political violence” as likely

Pro-Bolsonaro lawmaker Paulo Eduardo Martins, who is running for the Senate, criticized Mr. Fachin’s decision, calling it “a legal aberration.” Other pro-Bolsonaro pundits also lambasted the injunction.