This article is addressed to journalists and authorities who may be interested in further investigating the relationship between the Bolsonaro family and the American gun industry.
First, it is important to note why the National Rifle Association (NRA) may not hesitate to meet with international far-right politicians: the NRA wants them to succeed. Countries led by left-wing politicians are more likely to create stricter gun control laws, and by extension restrict profits to the globalized American gun industry. For example, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has documented how NRA executives met with representatives of the Australian far-right party One Nation in Fairfax, Virginia, at NRA headquarters. The Australians were looking for financial support for their upcoming federal elections and they promised the NRA that if they were bankrolled and won a couple of seats in Parliament, they would work hard to soften gun control in their country to facilitate civilian access to weapons. In addition to offering some guidance in communication strategy, the NRA referred the politicians to Koch Industries. They were welcomed by the company’s Federal Affairs Director Catherine Haggett, with whom they openly discussed financial support and the need to win the election to fight socialist influence in Australia. Al Jazeera investigated the connection between the NRA and the Australian far-right group from 2016 to 2018.
The NRA not only met with the Australian far-right, they also met with far-right politicians from Brazil in the same period, which hasn’t been yet sufficiently documented.
Brothers Carlos and Eduardo Bolsonaro, sons of Jair Bolsonaro, met with NRA executives while they travelled to the United States looking for supporters for their election campaign. In January 2017, the Bolsonaro family was taken to the Shot Show, in Las Vegas, by 88 Tactical Vice President of International Business Yves Sousa and his employee, short arm Instructor Tony Eduardo. The year before, the 88 Tactical pair had introduced Eduardo Bolsonaro to Royce Gracie.
Royce Gracie is one of the most recognized members of the jiu-jitsu legendary Gracie family. He is a former MMA fighter and currently a successful businessman in the martial arts world. Apart from being in the jiu-jitsu business, he is a long-time gun industry promoter in the US, where he lives. Royce Gracie is the person who organized the first meeting between the Bolsonaro family and the NRA directors. It is worth understanding how Royce Gracie worked as a bridge between the Bolsonaro brothers and the NRA.
Royce Gracie had been the friend of Tony Eduardo ( later employed by 88 Tactical) for a long time. Tony Eduardo trained jiu-jitsu with the Gracie family since his adolescence. Later, the friendship between them progressed and both Tony Eduardo and Royce Gracie occasionally taught self-defense together to police in Brazil and in the US. Tony Eduardo, also owner of a shooting range in Brazil, sponsored a couple of Gracie’s trips to Brazil to lead jiu-jitsu seminars. In the US, 88 Tactical also promoted Gracie’s seminars to law enforcement officials and sponsored him to fight in some tournaments. All of them– Tony Eduardo, Yves Sousa and Royce Gracie–supported the election of Jair Bolsonaro. They all wanted the revocation of the Brazilian Disarmament Statute.
Royce Gracie had also been building a large network within the American gun industry. He had been promoting the gun industry in the United States for many years through his social media accounts. He already had a strong connection with the NRA. The NRA had been considering hiring Royce Gracie as its spokesperson for matters related to Brazil. The NRA trusted in Royce Gracie when he introduced the Bolsonaro family to the organization.
Royce Gracie is connected to police departments in the US. He is also connected to some high calibre conservative politicians. Gracie introduced Eduardo Bolsonaro to Donald Trump Jr. during Trump’s presidential term, in Las Vegas in January 2018, when the Bolsonaro family again visited the Shot Show. Presumably, Donald Trump Jr. is the person who introduced (or recommended) Steve Bannon to Eduardo Bolsonaro later in that same year. Donald Trump Jr. and Steve Bannon are also connected to the NRA: Steve Bannon managed the Donald Trump campaign in 2016 when the NRA donated millions of dollars. Eduardo Bolsonaro has developed relations with both Steve Bannon and Donald Trump Jr.
The video below is from January 2017 and was posted by Eduardo Bolsonaro in his Facebook page. Eduardo is joined by his brother Carlos and the 88 Tactical pair Tony Eduardo and Yves Sousa. They discussed their visit to the Shot Show and their meeting with the NRA directors that had happened the day before. The video is in Portuguese and a summary of the conversation is found next.
Jair Bolsonaro, the father, Congressman and candidate for President. From Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro watched the video. On behalf of his father, Eduardo Bolsonaro sent hugs to his supporters (as demonstrated by Eduardo in the comment box).
Eduardo Bolsonaro, Congressman and candidate for re-election in the National Congress (wearing the red t-shirt). Eduardo led the meeting. He started by saying that they wanted to share their experience of visiting the Shot Show, the largest event for gun enthusiasts in the United States. He introduced everyone. Eduardo said that the NRA was considering hiring Royce Gracie as the organization’s spokesperson to deal with Brazil’s problems related to the disarmament of civilians. Eduardo Bolsonaro said that in the past the homicide rate in Brazil was lower because civilians had more access to firearms.
Carlos Bolsonaro, Councilman for the city of Rio de Janeiro. He has always been considered the “social media guru” of the family. (Sitting on the left, next to his brother). He wears a t-shirt that can be translated as “To disarm the citizen is not the solution.” Carlos acknowledged that the 88 Tactical men were responsible for the great experience the Bolsonaro family was having and for exposing them to their vast network at the Shot Show. He said that they had been taken by Royce Gracie to meet with the NRA directors. Their meeting had lasted more than two hours. Carlos Bolsonaro was amazed by the “fantastic” way they were received by the NRA. The NRA was very interested in the “Brazilian situation.” He said that they spoke with the NRA directors about the Brazilian cultural and political situation in which individual freedom (which can be understood as the civilian access to firearms) was jeopardized and that it caused concern to the NRA directors who saw it as a threat that could potentially impact the United States in the future. Carlos said that they were doing their job to help to change the political scenario in Brazil with the 2018 elections approaching in the following year.
Yves Sousa, 88 Tactical business partner and Vice President of International Business since 2015. (Sousa sits isolated from the others to the right.) Sousa said that 88 Tactical was the fastest growing company in its sector (tactical training) in the United States, providing training to military forces, police and civilians. They provided specialized military training to civilians, which was a growing market niche that he wanted to expand in. They had had experience training US Army special forces (Green Berets) in their outdoors shooting range in Tekamah (Nebraska). He talked about 88 Tactical’s plans to expand their business in the US with firearm instructors working nationwide but also with the company taking the group operations overseas. He planned to invest in Brazil in partnership with “Clube .38”, a shooting range and gun retailer owned by Tony Eduardo. He also planned to provide training to war veterans to work as contractors in post-conflict zones where private security would be required–in his words, exploring the same niche as Academy, formerly Blackwater. They talked about someone called Trevor (Trevor Thrasher), who trained at 88 Tactical and was going to combat in Afghanistan. Eduardo Bolsonaro said that he was looking forward to meeting with Trevor in the following day.
Tony Eduardo, 88 Tactical short arm Instructor and owner of the shooting range in Brazil named “Clube .38” (wearing a cap). Tony said that American politicians planned the future better than Brazilians. He said that the United States and Brazil had multicultural and geographic similarities. Brazil was a bad example because of the disarmament of civilians whereas the United States was more developed as access to guns was a very simple process. The United States was an example to be followed in terms of gun control legislation. He was happy with the large number of guns put in the hands of Americans. He criticized the Disarmament Statute signed by former president Lula da Silva in 2003.
Bene Barbosa. Brazilian pro-gun activist. (Barbosa was the most famous pro-gun activist in Brazil, as well as a lawyer, who assisted many Congressmen, including Jair Bolsonaro, when they proposed laws to weaken gun control legislation in Parliament in the early 2000s.) Barbosa was in Brazil but was mentioned several times in the video and liaised with Carlos Bolsonaro via social media or phone call the day before. In the video, Eduardo Bolsonaro said that when Bene Barbosa found out that the NRA wanted to make Royce Gracie its spokesperson to deal with Brazilian matters on gun control, he (Barbosa) offered to provide legal advice on Brazilian gun legislation. Eduardo Bolsonaro responded to him that his offer was very appreciated and that he would certainly talk with him about it. When they met with the NRA directors they talked to them about Bene Barbosa’s expertise in Brazilian gun legislation. Tony Eduardo emphasized that Bene Barbosa’s activism was very important in Brazil when lobbied with his pro-gun movement called “Movimento Viva Brasil”.
Once back in Brazil in February of 2017, just after their experience with the NRA, Eduardo Bolsonaro organized a nationwide street protest against the Disarmament Statute from the cabinet of his father, Jair Bolsonaro, based in the National Congress. It’s fair to speculate that Eduardo Bolsonaro, his father Jair, his brother Carlos and pro-gun activist Bene Barbosa coordinated the event together. Eduardo Bolsonaro marched alongside Bene Barbosa and supporters in the streets of Sao Paulo.
Less than five months later, in July 2017, Eduardo Bolsonaro, along with other Congressmen, and pro-gun activist Bene Barbosa submitted a petition in the Supreme Court with the objective to obligate the Parliament to create new rules to facilitate the civilian access to guns.
In August 2017, Royce Gracie was part of the NRA Carry Guard Expo in Wisconsin. He taught jiu-jitsu self-defense technique to paying attendees. The NRA magazine Shooting Illustrated interviewed and promoted him. He got interviewed by Editor-in-Chief Ed Friedman, one of the NRA executives that Royce Gracie had introduced to the Bolsonaro family six months earlier at the Shot Show in Las Vegas. The magazine highlighted that Gracie respected the organization because it fought for his right of bear guns and that he was discontent with the disarmament of civilians in Brazil.
In January 2018, the Bolsonaro brothers were back to the Shot Show in Las Vegas. As usual, they were with Royce Gracie and the 88 Tactical Vice President Yves Sousa and his employee, Tony Eduardo. They all met again with the NRA executive John Bailey. This time, Royce Gracie introduced the Bolsonaro family to Donald Trump Jr.
In August 2018 Eduardo Bolsonaro met with Steve Bannon in Manhattan, New York. He commented that Bannon was an enthusiast of Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign and that they would be in touch to join forces.
On September 5, 2018, the day before the stabbing of Jair Bolsonaro– a turning point event that made candidate Jair Bolsonaro’s popularity soar–Royce Gracie was in Brazil and met with Bene Barbosa at the shooting range Clube .38 (owned by 88 Tactical employee Tony Eduardo). Barbosa gifted a copy of his book They Lied to Me about the Disarmament to Royce Gracie. The elections happened one month later. Jair Bolsonaro was elected President, Eduardo Bolsonaro was re-elected Congressman, and his older sibling Flavio Bolsonaro was elected Senator. In 2020, Carlos Bolsonaro was re-elected Councilman for the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The same day, Eduardo Bolsonaro, from Brasilia, shared an NRA post with a comment about his discontentment with the Disarmament Statute.
For more articles about the relationship between the Bolsonaro family and the American gun industry please read the piece Help Us To Denounce The Relationship Between The NRA and The Bolsonaro Family.