Tuesday, January 17, 2017

80 Percent of 25 Million Guns Now in Private Hands in Russia are Held Illegally, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 17 – A recent rise in armed violence in Russia has called attention to the growing number of guns in private hands in that country, including into the hands of people who are nominally denied the right to own them but who are able to make an end run around restrictions via the black market.

            In today’s “Komsomolskaya Pravda,” journalist Aleksandr Rogoza points to the notorious case of a man who was undergoing psychiatric care and had committed violent crimes but nevertheless not only acquired new weapons but also became an instructor in their use at a private Moscow gun club as part of a larger problem (kp.ru/daily/26630/3649553/).

            Obtaining a license to own a gun in Russia is not difficult but it is slower and more cumbersome than acquiring a gun on the black market. The first takes two or three weeks without a bribe; two or three days with one. The latter can be done almost immediately although prices are still high.

            The Russian National Guard which is now the gatekeeper for registration says that the Russian people now have registered with its officers “more than five million” guns of various kinds; but that is a small fraction of the some 20 million additional guns now illegally held by criminals and others.

            A major reason that many Russians are seeking to acquire guns now is out of fear that they or their family members will be robbed or assaulted by criminals with guns, a fear that is sparking a veritable arms race as criminals arm themselves to deal with others who are armed and the latter do the same.

            Unfortunately, despite widespread beliefs that Russia has tight and effective gun control arrangements, that is not so.  Mikhail Ignatov, a retired militiaman, says that “there is a very great deal of corruption in our present system of getting permission to own a weapon” and that to avoid more bloodshed, the system must be changed.

            A major problem, he says, is that officials of the Russian National Guard don’t examine critically the documents presented to them and thus fail to recognize that many of the medical certificates required can be acquired by applicants on the Internet for ten to fifteen thousand rubles from people who have never examined them.

            But an even larger problem, the “Moskovsky komsomolets” journalist suggests, is that ever more people are simply avoiding the legal registration system altogether and getting the guns they want on the black or gray market, a choice that makes it ever more likely that such weapons will fall into the wrong hands or be misused in other ways.

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