In a national referendum on gun control, voters in Brazil appear to have overwhelmingly rejected a sweeping permanent prohibition on the sale of arms and ammunition.
With three-quarters of the vote counted there, the gun ban proposal, endorsed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and scores of actors, pop stars and other celebrities, was trailing by a ratio of almost two to one. Voting was obligatory, and nearly 120 million people in a country long plagued by high rates of crime and violence were expected to cast ballots.
In polls taken at the start of the referendum campaign, nearly four out of five people surveyed were in favor of the gun ban. But the "no" camp, taking advantage of free television and radio time meant to stimulate national debate, seemed to have convinced Brazilians that the restrictions would leave them defenseless while making it easier for violent gangs to obtain weapons on the black market.
Doubts about the efficiency and honesty of the police also appear to have contributed to the erosion of support for the weapons ban.
Though Congress approved gun control legislation nearly two years ago and the homicide rate fell nearly 8 percent last year, the government failed to carry out other measures meant to enhance public security and build popular support for the prohibition, reports New York Times. I.L.