A core Bolsonaro promise is to try to cut crime by giving "good" people easier access to guns
Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - Barbara Barroso couldn't hide her excitement as she stepped up to her lane wearing goggles and ear protectors: it was her first time shooting her brand-new 12-gauge Armsan pump-action shotgun.
The 39-year-old Brazilian lawyer had to go through six months of costly bureaucracy to get her hands on her firearm after buying it in a licensed gun shop in Rio de Janeiro.
She didn't however have to go through the usual compulsory psychology test and gun training -- having done those when she bought the two Glock pistols she already owns.
By law Barroso must keep the weapons locked up at home, carrying them only to and from the firing range. However she candidly admits that the guns are also for "personal defense."
"If someone broke into my home, I reckon I'd probably use a pistol rather than the pump-action (shotgun) which does a lot more damage -- unless four men broke in at the same time," she said.
Barroso and Brazilians like her are looking forward to eased gun laws as promised by president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who takes office January 1.
The far-right politician has said he wants more guns in the hands of "good" people to counter rampant street crime that has seen Brazil take the top spot globally for violence, with 63,880 murders last year.
Seventy percent of those killings are from firearms, according to the Forum for Public Security monitoring group.
- Current tough law -
Currently a 2003 law sets strict conditions on gun ownership, and prohibits the sort of concealed-carry permit as found in the United States.
Without that law, the number of murders could be 12 percent higher, according to IPEA, the Brazilian Institute for Applied Economic Research.
But Brazilians remain attached to the idea of gun ownership. In a 2005 referendum, 64 percent of voters rejected a law banning the sale of firearms.
As it stands, one of the easiest ways to meet all the requirements to own a gun in Brazil is by obtaining a sports shooting license, supervised by the military rather than the federal police which wants proof that an individual needs a weapon for self-defense.
The number of sports shooting licenses issued annually has more that doubled in the past two years, according to the CBN radio network.
"It's become a way to not have to go through the so-called bureaucracy of the federal police system," said Isabel Figueiredo, a lawyer with the Forum for Public Security.
She said several internet sites give advice on how best to legally own a gun.
At Colt 45, the firing range where Barroso was blasting away with her shotgun at a paper target, the number of members has soared 10-fold in three years, going from 125 to 1,350, its management said.
"It has nothing to do with Bolsonaro's election, as a lot of people think. The increase in sign-ups started well before the spike in violence," said one of its instructors, Joao Bercle.
- 'Has to be balance' -
The firing range handles all the administrative steps for would-be shooters for a 3,000-real ($700) fee, on top of the taxes and cost of the obligatory firing test and required psychological evaluation.
Regardless of Bercle's assertions, Colt 45 is clearly pro-Bolsonaro, displaying a sticker supporting the president-elect on its window, beyond which the sound of gunshots boomed away incessantly.
Bercle said he hoped the new leader "will improve things for people who want to buy a gun and who right now spend a fortune just on administrative fees.
"Currently, criminals have easy access to smuggled weapons, including assault rifles, weapons of war. There has to be a balance," he said.
Bolsonaro has pledged to lower the age for gun ownership from 25 to 21 and end the police requirement that a need to own a weapon be proved.
Bercle said having more firearms in circulation would be dissuasive for criminals.
"If a robber knows the person in front of them might be armed, he'll be more cautious. Today, the robbers point their guns right away because they're sure the person isn't armed," he said.
But Barroso -- although she is already going through the process of buying her fourth firearm, another rifle -- doesn't agree that it should be generalized.
"If everybody in the street is armed and shooting breaks out every time someone feels threatened, it will become the Wild West," she said.
"I would never get my gun out if someone tried to steal my telephone. I'd be too afraid of missing and hitting an innocent person, just because of a simple telephone. It's not up to citizens to do the work of the police," she said.