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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 September, 2003, 23:59 GMT 00:59 UK
Brazilians march for gun control
By Jan Rocha
BBC correspondent in Rio de Janeiro

An estimated 50,000 protesters have marched in Rio de Janeiro to demand that Brazil's National Congress approve a new gun law to reduce the number of weapons and the number of gunshot victims in the country.

Anti-gun march in Rio de Janeiro
Thousands braved the rain to demand curbs on guns
The rain-soaked crowd surging along Copacabana Beach carried placards and banners calling for justice and peace with the words: "Say no to guns."

Among the marchers were many families of gunshot victims, besides the minister of justice and other members of the government and of Congress.

One of the main attractions was a group of actors from the cast of a popular TV soap, Women in Love, which in a recent episode showed a woman caught and killed in cross-fire between police and bandits in Copacabana.

Brazil is not at war with anyone, nor is there a civil war in the country, but last year 40,000 Brazilians were killed by bullets.

Armed violence is the main cause of death among young men in the 15 to 29 age group in Rio.

It is also claimed that doctors in some of Rio's big hospitals see more gunshot victims than doctors in war-zones in other countries and that more children die from bullets in Rio than in conflict zones.

Anti-gun law

The aim of the march was to bring pressure on the National Congress in Brasilia to speed up the approval of a new gun law in an attempt to reduce the number of deaths.

Besides making gun ownership much more difficult, it provides for a referendum in two years' time on whether to ban all sales of guns.

Now in the final stages of its progress through Congress, there have been attempts to water it down, allegedly because of the influence of the powerful arms lobby.

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