United Nations Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent,
Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects 30 June 2006
"A Mandate from Brazil"
Presented by Jairo Paes de Lira Brazilian Pro-Legitimate Defense Coalition
Mr. President, distinguished members of this honourable committee:
I am Jairo Paes de Lira, a Brazilian citizen and retired high-ranking police officer, and I speak as representative of the
60 million Brazilian voters who, within the national referendum held in 2005, said a loud NO to the government attempt to
ban the legitimate firearms owned by common, good, law-abiding people of our beloved Motherland.
In my country there has been a wave of political action directed against gun ownership. As has often been the recent case in
other countries, the apparent - just apparent - intent of the legislation, to reduce high levels of crime and violence, was
shown by the outcome of unique events in Brazil to be disbelieved by the people at large, and, as I will show, resoundingly
In 1997 new gun laws made it extremely difficult for hunters, sport shooters and other law-abiding owners to privately
possess arms. Then, in 2003, a new attempt was made at a complete ban on legal firearms, disregarding the previous law. Even
military and police personnel were also to he forbidden to hold their official guns while off duty. The country, it was said,
needed to pursue a "culture of peace", and that goal would not be attainable if Brazilians continued to permit the prevalence
of ideas of people who, and I quote the slogan, "loved to kill" (presumably meaning animals or other persons), as well as men
and women affected by a "fetish" for firearms - that is, sport shooters, including Olympic competitors, and antique
Mr. President, these people daring to want firearms to hunt food for their families or to shoot at targets on weekends in
recreation were the ordinary, law-abiding citizens of Brazil.
Supported by a huge media network, the initiative began. A new law was approved, almost as presented, by both Houses. The new
law (number 10826 of December 23, 2003, known as the Statute of Disarmament) brought much more restriction and also unbearable
taxes (for example, US$500 for a shooting permit, an amount equivalent to three months of the minimum wage, renewable every
three years) which made legitimate licensing virtually impossible to the poor, especially rural people.
In addition, the new Statute offered the Government unlimited power to impose further regulations on, for example, the
quantity of ammunition one can buy during a certain time.
The Statute also imposed total prohibition on the sale of firearms and ammunition all over the country, except for official
purposes, depending on the decision of a popular referendum. As we shall see, Mr. President, these sweeping requirements
found no sympathy with the ordinary men and women of the nation.
The Members of Parliament who proposed the Statute of Disarmament set out to gain total prohibition of lawfully owned guns by
leaving the decision directly to the electors, with the additional benefit of going down in history as the first political
representatives to give the people a chance to decide a relevant issue in terms of direct democracy since the introduction
of the Constitution of 1988. This is how a gun ban referendum was presented to the Brazilian people.
Opinion polls initially indicated more than 80% of the population would support the complete ban. So the government's
political strategists believed the referendum was as good as won, and went ahead with their political show.
In the referendum, set for October 23, 2005, the question for voters was: "Should the sale of firearms and ammunition be
forbidden in Brazil?"
The gigantic Globo Communications Network joined with a number of powerful NGOs which were financed from Europe and the USA.
They and many, indeed, most, governmental representatives brazenly blamed law-abiding people, sport shooters, hunters and
civilian firearm owners for the homicides which occur during gang wars. The activities of armed criminals cause fatalities
every day in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. There are daily shootings involving police.
The arguments mounted by these combined groups were fallacious, based on distorted treatment of the available data about
violent crime rates in Brazil.
However, legislation assured both sides of the argument twenty days of free programs on radio and television. It would be
just a few minutes twice a day, but would prove time enough to put the factual case to voters.
When the results were in, fully 65% of the Brazilian voters rejected the prohibition.
Mr. President, the people of Brazil in the world's first attempt at a nationwide gun ban in a free country clearly favoured
preservation of the right to legally own firearms, for shooting and hunting activities, as well as for legitimate home defence.
In debates and live conferences with audiences all around the country, and with radio and television time, Mr. President, the
issues arising from a threat to lawful civilian firearm ownership had been discussed across Brazil, and the focus was on the
issue of the constitutional right.
The referendum was not about disarmament, but about the total prohibition of the sale of goods to civilians and law enforcement
personnel. The case against it was based on a simple and true message: the anti-gun case jeopardized a citizen 's rights. The
Brazilians of today could not afford to throw these away because if they did so they would irreparably damage future
generations' inheritance of rights.
This message was delivered to the people plainly and without artifice, in a direct manner, offering factual arguments which
could be checked and proved.
The people's will was clearly, emphatically expressed in two thirds vote defeating the so-called Statute of
The October 23, 2005, referendum was a landmark for all Brazilians, a signpost of political maturity, and it will no doubt go
on to produce other important stances to be taken by the population.
Mr. President, it is my understanding that here at the UN one speaks in terms of "mandates" - whether or not a body has the
authority, the authorizations, the commission as it were, to do something. If a body has no mandate then it cannot act.
Mr. President, the vote in Brazil on last October 23rd was a mandate. There is no greater mandate in a democracy than a vote
of the people. And on this subject, the voice of the majority of the Brazilian people echoes through this international assembly. Small arms of good and lawful origin, destined exclusively for legitimate hunting, sport shooting and home defence, should never be confused with light weapons because they are not conceived or owned for harming or for war, but for respectable and traditional civilian purposes, linked with inalienable natural rights of peaceful, law-abiding people.
Mr. President, the international anti-gun community, especially powerful NGOs, was intimately and extensively involved in
supporting the gun ban referendum. They.lost. They did not receive the mandate.
Who did receive the mandate? It was the people I humbly speak for today, the millions of legal gun owners in my country and
several other millions of voters who, even though they were not themselves firearms owners, understood and supported the
profound need to keep for everybody precious constitutional and human rights. It was a mandate that rejected further erosion
of their rights. It was a mandate that rejected international interference. It was a mandate that must be acknowledged and
Jairo Paes de Lira Brazilian Pro-Legitimate Defense Coalition