Brazilia: national referendum of banning gun sales

Voters in one of the world's most violent countries were flocking to the polls Sunday for a nationwide referendum on whether to prohibit the sale of guns and ammunition, which kill nearly 40,000 people a year.

While Brazilians agree the level of gun-related violence is excessive, surveys show they are reluctant to relinquish their right to own guns, and the ban was considered unlikely to pass.

More than 120 million Brazilians were expected to cast ballots. Voting is mandatory between 18 and 70, but Brazilians as young as 16 can vote. Most polls are electronic, and voters simply press a button and confirm their vote.

If the referendum passes, the sale of firearms and ammunition would be prohibited except for police, the military, some security guards, gun collectors and sports shooters. It complements a 2003 disarmament law that sharply restricted who could legally purchase firearms and who could carry guns in the streets.

The law, plus a government-sponsored gun buyback program, has reduced deaths from firearms by about 8 percent this year, the Health Ministry said.

In a survey released Sunday by the respected Ibope pollsters, 51 percent of Brazilians planned to vote no and 41 percent said they would vote yes. The rest were undecided or had no opinion. Ibope interviewed 2002 Brazilians nationwide between Oct. 18 and 20, with a margin of error of 2 percent.

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