Since assuming the Presidency of the Republic in January 2019, Jair Bolsonaro has issued a series of decrees to change aspects of the Disarmament Act – a law passed in 2003 that has successfully slowed the growth in the number of homicides caused by firearms in the country. In practice, these measures by the federal government have eased the controls, requirements and limits on the possession and ownership of guns and ammunition. In May 2019, the political party Rede Sustentabilidade (Sustainability Network) filed ADPF Case (Allegation of Violation of a Fundamental Precept) No. 581 that challenges the constitutionality of one of these decrees, no. 9,785/2019. 

The case was attached to ADI (Direct Action of Unconstitutionality) No. 6675, which was filed by the PSB (Brazilian Socialist Party) against another four decrees on the same topic published in February 2021 (nos. 10,627/2021, 10,628/2021, 10,628/2021 and 10,628/2021).

Conectas was accepted as an amicus curiae in the case and, in its memorials, it highlighted the relationship between the rise in the number of firearms and the increase in murders, femicides, suicides and fatal accidents involving children. In this regard, the organization pointed out that the decrees infringe on the fundamental guarantees that inspired the Disarmament Act – the right to life and to public security and the dignity of the human person – and leave black youth particularly exposed to the increased in violence.

The organization also revealed that the policies of the federal government conflict with at least two international conventions ratified by Brazil – the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which was supplemented by the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition.

According to Conectas, the incorporation of these treaties requires Brazil to maintain strict control over the manufacture and trade of arms, and any non-compliance could cause serious damage to the country’s foreign relations. Finally, the organization pointed out that the use of presidential decrees to change legislation oversteps the powers assigned by the Constitution to the Presidency of the Republic.

In April 2021, the rapporteur of the case, Justice Rosa Weber, granted the injunction requested by Rede Sustentabilidade and suspended several provisions of four decrees signed by President Jair Bolsonaro. The case was taken to the full session of the Court, but the judgment was suspended after Justice Alexandre de Moraes requested an adjournment. 

According to the Ministry of Health’s data system DataSUS, of the 43,000 murders registered in Brazil in 2019, 70% were caused by firearms. The number of guns registered in the country surged 65% between 2019 and 2021. 

Technical information

  • Case: ADPF-581 and ADI-6675
  • Court: Supreme Court
  • Status: Awaiting the resumption of the judgment
  • Procedure:
    • 5/08/19 – Initial petition of ADPF-581
    • 2/17/21 – Initial petition of ADI-6675
    • 4/15/21 – Presentation of memorials and oral statement by Conectas
    • 4/16/21 – Judgment suspended after adjournment requested by Justice Alexandre de Moraes