One of the things that I have always found very strange since returning to Brazil is police and private security staff carrying guns around. Having lived for such at long time in the UK, where not even the police uses firearms, it always feels very uncomfortable to see people around with big pistols and automatic rifles.
Then yesterday, it turns out that an unarmed man, upset because a branch of Bradesco – one of the largest banks in Brazil – had closed when he wanted to access the bank in São Bernardo do Campo (in the outskirts of São Paulo), was shot four times by private security staff and died at the scene.

All the talk that the customer in question had been aggressive doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the bloke in question wasn’t storming the bank with a gun, pointing it at staff and telling them to fill a sack with cash. He was a Bradesco customer annoyed that the bank was not open (there has been a banking staff strike over the last few days). So we have to be careful when complaining to the vigilante that the ATM is not working next time we go to a bank branch – we might get get four bullets in response from those who are supposedly there to protect us…

The innocent public of Brazil should not fear a visit to their local bank, yet look at the bank branches in Brazil. Armed vigilantes patrol the entrance and when cash is delivered or collected a team of guards with automatic weapons patrol the street around the bank. I wonder if people considered what would happen if someone did attempt to rob the bank while they were paying their bills?

Vigilantes are on the street with guns with just 160 hours of training – this compares to nearly 3,000 of training that Brazilian police get so that they can carry a gun. Private security staff don’t even need to be literate make the decision to kill “in defence of the bank.”

If banks in Brazil insist that armed guards are necessary (this is subject for an entire separate post) then it is their duty to ensure that any person carrying a weapon in public must be as well trained as a police officer, with additional training for the type of sudden armed attack that may occur in their occupation. Why has nobody here in Brazil ever insisted on this before, or is it acceptable for untrained, uneducated people to shoot and kill innocent customers and for questions to be asked after?

Please join the Facebook community that I created to collect opinion about this – we can then submit the thoughts of this group to the government. It’s time to ensure that anyone carrying a gun in public knows how to use it safely when near to unarmed and innocent civilians.

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