BRASILIA, Brazil — The Brazilian army has authorized law enforcement officers to carry heavy-caliber weapons for personal use, a move critics say could lead to more gun-related violence.

Army spokesman Col. Nador Brandao said Wednesday that state, civilian and highway police officers will be able to buy the weapons to protect themselves.

The army has jurisdiction over most law enforcement agencies in Brazil.

Ligia Rechenberg is the coordinator of the Sou da Paz, or “I am for Peace,” violence prevention group. She said police will buy weapons “they don’t know how to handle and that puts them and the population at risk.”

Several cities have recently experienced a surge of violence, including crimes believed to have been committed by off-duty police officers.