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Brazil Sets Date for Gun Referendum

Army soldiers spread approximately 10,000 collected guns during a disarmament program in Brasilia
Brazilian lawmakers have set a date for a national referendum in October on whether to ban the sale of all firearms. Brazil is one of the world's most violent countries when it comes to gun-related deaths, far surpassing the United States and Israel.

Brazilian lawmakers have decided Brazil will have a national referendum in October on whether to completely ban the sale of firearms.

An overwhelming majority of Brazil's elected leaders in the Congress voted in favor of holding the referendum.

The vote is scheduled for October 23.

Denis Mizne, executive director for Brazil's Institute for Peace, said that the referendum is a landmark decision for Brazil and that his organization will work in the coming months to promote its passing.

"As you can imagine, the referendum is a very important thing for us," Mr. Mizne said. He added that his organization will make televised and print appeals for its passage.

Brazil ranks second in the world for deaths by firearms, well ahead of the United States and Israel, says a recent U.N. report.

Last month, the United Nations said its study showed that more than 500,000 people were killed by guns in Brazil between 1979-2003.

Many officials and Brazilian citizens blame gangs and drugs for the rampant murder rate by gun.

In Rio de Janeiro, drug gang members often roam streets of the city's hillside slums, toting assault rifles and other firearms with impunity.

Brazil has taken steps to try to curtail gun violence. A new gun control law went into effect in September. It includes stricter control of weapon imports and mandatory registration of all firearms. Gun licenses will also have to be renewed every three years.

Last July, Brazil began a nationwide campaign that compensates citizens for turning in firearms, whether registered or not.

Those who give their guns over to federal police receive between $40 and $120, depending on the size and caliber of the weapon.