Staunton, December 5 – The use of guns to commit crimes, attack others or to defend what those who own them believe are their rights and property is an all too frequent feature of life in the United States where the right to bear arms is Constitutionally mandated, often culturally supported, and not subject to serious limitations in most cases.
But it may come as a surprise to many that in Russia where private gun ownership is far more limited and far more controlled, an increasing number of people are using guns in the same way as their American counterparts, albeit to this point still in far fewer numbers and with much less resonance in the media.
Three reports in the last few weeks highlight this new reality: First, Russian officials acknowledged that Russians used lethal weapons in the commission of 6,000 crimes over the last year. In 1,000 of these cases, those committing the crimes had registered their guns with the authorities (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/redko-no-metko-kakie/).
Second, there have been two cases in which men opened fire in acts of random violence, including one in Perm which claimed the life of a passerby (znak.com/2019-12-04/v_permi_muzhchina_otkryl_besporyadochnyy_ogon_po_lyudyam_pogibla_zhenchina), and a second in occupied Crimea where a student shot and killed 19 with a registered weapon (rbc.ru/society/17/10/2018/5bc735ff9a79474fb52b0ddc).
And third, in St. Petersburg, a group of garage owners three days ago signaled their determination not to allow the authorities to tear these facilities down by appearing “with guns in their hands.” That has not yet led to violence but represents in itself a new form of escalation of protest (severreal.org/a/30307970.html).
How many guns are in private hands in Russia is a matter of dispute. Russian officials cite the figure of 7.3 million but most Russian experts on the question suggest that the number may be as high as 25 million with guns flowing in from the Donbass fighting a major new source (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2016/08/weapons-from-donbass-flooding-back-into.html).
This has sparked a debate about gun control, with the authorities seeking tighter control and gun manufacturers and sports groups calling for looser control and expanded ownership (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/10/russians-now-fighting-over-gun-control.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/07/gun-manufacturer-wants-russians-to-be.html and
Russian psychiatrists say that gun violence is becoming ever more widespread, especially among young people. There was similar youth aggression in the past, they say; but because few had guns, it seldom resulted in the kind of injuries and even deaths that it does now (rbc.ru/society/17/10/2018/5bc735ff9a79474fb52b0ddc).
Writing in Nezavisimaya gazeta three weeks ago, economics reporter Mikhail Sergeyev laments that “youth shootings have become the norm in present-day Russia” and that the state has shown itself incapable of doing anything to prevent that from becoming even more widespread (ng.ru/kartblansh/2019-11-14/3_7727_kart.html).
If that is the case, gun violence appears likely to become an ever more frequent feature of Russian life, although how much of it will be reported by government media very much remains to be seen.