The Suzano school where two shooters killed 8 people, before ending their lives

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” “Kids these days are addicted to violent video games.” In the U.S., platitudes such as these were spouted by officials and gun rights activists after the Columbine High School shooting of 1999. Twenty years later, the same inane remarks have been heard in Brazil, from the mouths of important figures in the sitting government, in the wake of Wednesday’s school shooting in Suzano, Greater São Paulo.

During morning recess in the Raul Brasil high school, former pupils Guilherme Taucci Monteiro, 17, and Luiz Henrique de Castro entered the building and opened fire on students and teachers. Five students were killed, as well as two members of staff. The gunmen then committed suicide.

</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">School </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">shootings</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> are not a recurring phenomenon in Brazil, and one must go back to the </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">Realengo massacre of 2011</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to find something comparable to the magnitude of Wednesday&#8217;s tragic events. On that occasion, 23-year-old Wellington Menezes killed 12 elementary schoolchildren on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, what links the two attacks is that both sets of perpetrators took inspiration from U.S. school shootings. Mr. Menezes reportedly tried to emulate Seung-Hui Cho, the gunman of the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007, while Wednesday&#8217;s shooting held several similarities to the Columbine massacre—regarding the weapons and clothing used by the perpetrators.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The fear is that unless Brazil takes any sort of action on </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">gun legislation</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">—which seems impossible in the short term—it could continue to follow in the footsteps of the United States.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In the 20 years since Columbine, there have been ten school shootings in the U.S. which have claimed five or more lives, as well as a slew of other, smaller incidents. The most credible and consistent claim is that young people find it easy to get their hands on firearms in the country.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Brazil, the Suzano shooting comes during a considerable </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">pro-gun push</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> from the Federal Government. President Jair Bolsonaro issued a decree earlier this year to loosen gun ownership laws, and has promised to do similar for carry permits. The imagery of gun use was also very present throughout Mr. Bolsonaro&#8217;s election campaign, and he adopted a &#8220;finger guns&#8221; salute as one of the trademarks of his presidential push.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">On the day of the massacre, the president&#8217;s eldest son Senator Flávio Bolsonaro </span><a href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">submitted a bill</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> to allow gun and ammunition factories to operate in Brazil. Another of the president&#8217;s sons, congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, declared that guns &#8220;are just as bad as cars,&#8221; before voicing the famous cliché that &#8220;guns don&#8217;t kill people, people kill people.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Senator Major Olimpio, one of the most prominent figures in Jair Bolsonaro&#8217;s Social Liberal Party, went one step further, suggesting that the tragedy would have been avoided had the teachers been armed—a &#8220;solution&#8221; proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump in early 2018.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The trend is towards less gun control and more firearms in the hands of more citizens, painting a worrying picture for the country in the short and medium term.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As an interesting comparison, Wednesday&#8217;s shooting came on the anniversary of the Dunblane massacre, when in 1996, former Scout leader Thomas Hamilton slaughtered 16 elementary school students and a teacher in central Scotland. Public outcry followed and the British government enacted the Firearms Act of 1997, which banned all handguns in the country. No school shootings have occurred in the United Kingdom in the 23 years following Dunblane.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A similar move is extremely unlikely to take place in Brazil any time soon.

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OpinionMar 15, 2019

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BY Euan Marshall

Euan Marshall is a Scottish journalist living in São Paulo. He is co-author of A to Zico: An Alphabet of Brazilian Football.