Hundreds of pro-gun protesters marched in Brasilia's streets on Saturday, calling for an extension of the loosened firearm regulations enacted by Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who faces reelection this fall.
The rally was organised by Proarmas, which dubs itself as the largest gun advocacy group in Latin America, and coincided with International Gun Destruction Day.
Proarmas had called on Brazilians from around the country to gather in the capital and march "for freedom" to the National Congress – a plea echoed by the president's son, legislator Eduardo Bolsonaro.
"The left never imagined that so many people would take to the streets to say: yes, I want to be armed because I prefer a thug buried underground than having my wife raped," Bolsonaro told the crowd of hundreds.
"A criminal only respects what he fears and everyone is afraid of being shot... If we are armed, they will think twice," he added.
Since coming to power in 2019, President Bolsonaro has issued decrees making it easier for Brazilians to gain access to firearms, as well as expanding the number of weapons and amount of ammunition each person is allowed to own.
The far-right leader, who currently trails former leftist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in polls, has encouraged citizens to arm themselves, repeating that "an armed people will never be enslaved."
Portuguese teacher Andre Lago, 45, shared that sentiment at the rally, telling AFP that "every dictatorship begins with the disarmament of the population."
"We want everyone to have the freedom to be able to defend their property and their family," said Lago, who wore a "Bolsonaro President 2022" t-shirt and Brazilian flag tied around his neck.
Between 2018 and 2022, the number of citizens registered to own guns in Brazil increased nearly five-fold, according to data recently released by NGO Brazilian Forum for Public Security (FBSP) based on information from the Army and Federal Police.
When Bolsonaro was elected in 2018 there were 117,467 people registered as hunters, sport shooters and collectors. That number climbed to 673,818 in June 2022.
There are an estimated 4.4 million guns in private hands in Brazil.
Brazil's pro-gun march comes amid a global debate over gun control after multiple mass shootings in the United States and Friday's assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, reportedly with a homemade gun.