Deadly School Shooting Renews Debate on Gun Laws in Brazil

(Bloomberg) -- Two hooded men opened fire in a Sao Paulo public school on Wednesday, killing eight people before committing suicide in an attack that renews debate over President Jair Bolsonaro’s push to loosen gun controls.

At least five of the victims were students and two were school employees, local authorities said. A 0.38-caliber handgun was among the weapons used in the attack that took place early morning in the municipality of Suzano, less than 30 miles from the state capital. Another 15 people were reported injured in the school of 1,000 students.

Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria rushed to the scene of the crime, expressing his condolences and shock. “It’s the saddest scene I’ve ever seen in my life,” he told reporters after visiting the school. Bolsonaro later said via Twitter that the act was monstrous and cowardice.

While mass shootings are relatively rare in Brazil, Wednesday’s attack stirred debate over the country’s gun legislation. Bolsonaro, who rode to victory last year with a tough law-and-order talk, recently signed a decree that made it easier for law-abiding Brazilians to own and keep guns at home. Several other regulations remain in place, however, and it remains difficult for civilians to legally carry firearms.

Still, there is a big black market for illegal weapons and more than 60,000 people are killed annually in Brazil.

Shortly after the shooting, Senator Major Olimpio, one of Bolsonaro’s main supporters in Congress, said the tragedy could have been avoided by an armed teacher or school worker. “Disarmament policy has failed,” he later wrote on his Twitter account. “We can’t allow anyone to take advantage of this tragedy to say that disarmament is the solution.”

The minority leader in the lower house, Jandira Feghali, said there is a link between today’s shooting and a government that proposes arming the population as a means to tackle violence.

Police said they found other weapons at the crime scene, including a crossbow, as well as materials that appeared to be explosives.

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