May 25, 2019
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Death toll from Brazil school shooting climbs to 10

Suzano, Brazil, Mar 13 (efe-epa).- The death toll from a school shooting Wednesday in Sao Paulo's metropolitan region has climbed to 10, Brazilian authorities said.

The fire department of Brazil's largest city had said earlier Wednesday that nine people had died in the attack, including the two suspected assailants.

The Military Police of Sao Paulo state provided the latest death toll and also said another 10 people were wounded in the attack, down from 16 in the fire department's report.

That police force said that on Wednesday morning a pair of hooded individuals, "apparently two teenagers," entered the Raul Brasil public high school in the city of Suzano, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Sao Paulo city, and opened fire.

At least five teenagers and an employee of that educational institution died at the scene, while the two suspected assailants committed suicide in the halls of the school, the Military Police said.

Two other people wounded in the shooting later died at a local hospital, Military Police spokeswoman Capitana Cibelle told reporters.

Scenes of extreme anguish were seen outside the school's grounds, with a large crowd of parents and local residents trying to obtain information from authorities, an EFE reporter observed.

The Military Police added that the assailants also shot and wounded a nearby store owner, who was rushed to an area hospital in serious condition.

Authorities have not yet confirmed the motive for the attack nor the identities of the students who were killed, but they said they are between the ages of 15 and 17.

The alleged assailants were carrying an undetermined number of handguns, as well as backpacks with explosive-like devices, according to the Military Police, which said the suspects also were in possession of "machetes" and a "bow and arrow."

The attackers' hoods had skull designs on the front, that police force added.

The governor of Sao Paulo state, Joao Doria, canceled his scheduled activities for Wednesday and traveled to the crime scene.

"I'm deeply affected, with a profound sense of grief. It's the saddest scene I've seen in my entire life," Doria told reporters at the school.

The shooting comes at a time when the issue of gun ownership is front and center in Brazil following the election last year of rightist President Jair Bolsonaro.

On Jan. 15, he signed a decree facilitating gun ownership in Brazil, thus fulfilling one of his main campaign promises. That measure, however, did not lift a restriction barring people from carrying guns outside of their homes or workplaces.

The measure, Bolsonaro said, seeks to allow "good citizens to be able to have peace within their homes."

The decree expanded the scenarios in which Brazilians could demonstrate their need to own a gun, including being a resident of a rural area or a city with more than 10 annual homicides per 100,000 inhabitants (which is the case in urban areas throughout Brazil).

The measure maintained many existing legal restrictions, including a requirement that those applying to purchase guns be at least 25 years old, have no criminal record or pending legal proceedings, show proof of legal employment status and a fixed residence and pass a psychological exam and shooting test.

He signed that decree even though a survey published by the Datafolha institute late last year found that the percentage of Brazilians who support a ban on gun ownership increased from 55 percent in October, when Bolsonaro was elected president with a 55 percent majority, to 61 percent in December.

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