Brazil passes gun laws

Dec. 10, 2003 at 1:02 PM

BRASILIA, Brazil, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Brazilian lawmakers have passed strict gun-control laws, part of an effort to reduce of the world's highest murder rate, news sources reported Wednesday.

In a late-Tuesday night vote, senators passed the bill following months of political wrangling. All that's left is for President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to sign it into law.

Lula -- currently on a tour of Middle East nations -- is a strong proponent of gun control and is expected to sign the measure as soon as he returns later this week.

The law prohibits regular citizens from owning guns, limiting gun ownership to police, security guards and other law enforcement officials. It also raises the minimum age from 21 to 25 to purchase a gun.

The bill also calls for a national referendum in 2005 on whether gun sales should be banned altogether.

According to estimates, more than 45,000 people are killed every year by guns, mostly of the deaths occurring in large urban areas like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Both cities have seen a spike in gang-related deaths in recent years.

Lawmakers are hoping stiffer penalties such as longer prison sentences will help stem the tide of illegal arms sales.

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