Under President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration, Brazil became a gold mine for the international gun industry. The country’s 2003 Disarmament Statute was dismantled by several decrees signed by Bolsonaro and actions taken by his allies in the Congress and Senate. Their goal was to facilitate civilian access to firearms. One consequence is that the sale of guns skyrocketed in Brazil in the last few years. As gun control legislation was altered, gun culture was also reshaped due to a sophisticated method of influence that changed many Brazilians’ perception and consumption behaviour towards firearms. The Bolsonaro regime didn’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, they liaised with the National Rifle Association (NRA) to learn how to apply its marketing, networking, and lobbying strategies in Brazil. Led by Eduardo Bolsonaro, one of Jair Bolsonaro’s sons, the pro-gun group called Pro-Armas was born as the Brazilian version of the NRA.
To understand how Pro-Armas was created, it is important to look beyond the idea that civilian armament is simply part of the usual far-right agenda and beyond the propaganda about gun ownership as a right. The question we must ask is cui bono: which segment of the economy benefits most from gun proliferation and how is that segment pushing to change legislation. The Brazilian media has neglected this question. Both the mainstream and independent media have only gone as far as acknowledging that the Bolsonaro family has formed strong ties to the international far right, including famous characters such as Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and the Hungarian leader Viktor Orban. But they haven’t yet examined who is supporting international far-right movements and leaders—and more specifically, who is bankrolling the connection between the Bolsonaros and the American far right. They haven’t so far delivered the news. But we are here to say it: the international gun industry is bankrolling the far-right agenda in Brazil.
Through independent research available to investigative journalism, our team has utilized our backgrounds in the humanities and social sciences to observe the social media interactions of Jair Bolsonaro’s sons Flavio, Carlos, and Eduardo with others connected to the gun industry. We worked to connect the digital trails they left. We have concluded that prior to the elections of 2018 they criminally conspired to get foreign support to dismantle the Disarmament Statute in the event of Bolsonaro’s election. They conspired against democracy in Brazil in conjunction with the international gun industry.
We have found signs that, from the end of 2015, the Bolsonaro family started liaising with some shooting club employees based in the United States. The employees of 88 Tactical, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, facilitated the networking with the NRA and with the international gun industry. Later, it progressed to establish a close connection with the Trump family and with Steve Bannon, who worked together to help the Bolsonaro family succeed in the 2018 elections.
In October 2018, Jair Bolsonaro was elected President of Brazil. His oldest son Flavio was elected Senator, and Eduardo Bolsonaro was re-elected Congressman. In 2020, Carlos Bolsonaro was re-elected Councilman in the city of Rio de Janeiro
In June 2020, Pro-Armas was officially founded by a lawyer named Marcos Pollon. Unofficially, however, it was founded by Eduardo Bolsonaro with the help of the NRA. Only after two years of existence, the group has enrolled fifty-thousand members and operates in most regions of the country. It has directly worked with members of the national and state legislatures to alter the gun-control legislation. It has also helped to promote and to spread shooting clubs in the whole country.
In 2022, Pro-Armas supported the candidacy of senators, governors and congressional representatives. Most of them belonging to the Liberal Party (PL), the same party of Jair Bolsonaro and two of his sons, Flavio and Eduardo. Thirty-eight of them got elected, including its director Marcos Pollon to the Chamber of Deputies and the former Vice-President General Hamilton Mourao to the Senate. The Pro-Armas team, now public servants, will work for the next four years with the mission to annihilate the Disarmament Statute. Pro-Armas is supported by the gun industry. Glock and Springfield Armory are some of the international gun manufacturers that have partnership with Pro-Armas as it can be seen in the group’s website. This is one piece of proof that the international gun industry is bankrolling the far right in Brazil, represented by the Bolsonaro family and their allies.
This article has been requested by Washington Brazil Office (WBO) to be published in its April 2023 newsletter.
This Seeing Red Nebraska extended version includes images and some additional information.
The first link in the first paragraph of the article (version) contains the YouTube link to the documentary produced by Vice called “The Brazilian Pro Gun Activists Inspired by the NRA,” for which Vice journalist Leah Varjacques interviewed Pro-Armas member Samurai Caçador. We want to add that Samurai Caçador was supported by Pro-Armas when he ran for a seat in the state legislature of Sao Paulo in the 2022 elections. It is worth mentioning that he wasn’t elected.
Leah Varjacques interviewed Samurai Caçador at Shot Fair trade show in Joinville in August 2022. Shot Fair, promoted by Pro-Armas, is the Brazilian version of Shot Show (the American trade show for the gun industry). Shot Fair is another successful outcome of the connection between Eduardo Bolsonaro and the NRA.
The documentary also explored the connection between pro-gun activists and the attempted coup that happened in January 8, 2023. Leah Varjacques had interviewed George Washington at Shot Fair in August. Washington told her that he could own dozens of guns since the Bolsonaro government had softened gun control legislation. Washington was arrested later in December after being accused of attaching explosives to a fuel tank truck in the capital Brasilia.
Another connection to the attempted coup: Pro-Armas director Marcos Pollon, Eduardo Bolsonaro and Julia Zanatta (Eduardo Bolsonaro’s aid in the South Region of Brazil who was recently elected on a Pro-Armas agenda to the Chamber of Deputies) met with another person accused of planning and bankrolling the attacks of January 8. They had a private meeting with Eloir Dedonatti (also known as “Padre do Bolsonaro”) just before heading to Shot Fair in August 7.