Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Ever More Russians Arming Themselves for Self-Defense

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 25 – Some 4.5 million Russians – including more than 400,000 Moscow residents -- now have licenses to carry guns, statistics that almost certainly understate the number of those bearing firearms and that certainly understate the number carrying weapons such as stun guns and knives for which registration is not required.
Prior to the adoption of Russia’s 1997 gun law, most gun owners in the Russian Federation were hunters, but since that time ever more urban residents have purchased guns and other weapons for self-defense, the Moscow newspaper “Novyye izvestiya” reported yesterday (
“By purchasing arms,” the paper said, “residents of Moscow” and other Russian cities “intend to be in a position to defend themselves from skinheads, football fanatics and simply street bandits.” But as it notes, “all these groups also have the right to arms for their own self-defense.”
That these are serious concerns among many Muscovites was reflected in the results of a Levada Center poll released yesterday. Residents of the Russian capital were asked to name the five or six problems of the city that most disturbed them (
The survey found that Russians ranked the increasing influx of migrants who many Russians believer are responsible for crime, the growth of drug and alcohol consumption, and a growth of crime more generally ranked second, fourth, and fifth on this list.
As a result, both Moscow and Russia as a whole ever more frequently hear the sound of an exchange of gunfire, something Russian militiamen are increasingly concerned about. Moscow militia officials told “Novyye izvestiya” that they would like to see the population have as few arms “as possible” so that violence might decline.
According to militia officials, “the majority of people do not know how to use arms or use them for other than self-defense;” and consequently, the police would like to see “the introduction of compulsory instruction” in gun use for any Russian who wants a license to carry a firearm.
But as the newspaper points out, many Russians currently have guns for which they have no licenses, and even more Russians are purchasing weapons like stun guns and knives for which the Russian government does require licenses.
And consequently, “Novyye izvestiya” points out, the domestic arms race in the Russian Federation is unlikely to slow anytime soon, with some Russians buying arms to protect themselves against others who are purchasing weapons either for the same reason or for some other.

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