Staunton, April 18 – Last month, Moscow media reported Russians were buying more bullets and baseball bats, trends that led some to say the population was arming itself out of fears that the pandemic and economic decline were going to spark a rise in crime or a new time of troubles (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/03/in-current-crisis-russians-buying-more.html).
But a survey of experts in the arms business by two Lenta journalists, Igor Nadezhdin and Vladimir Sedov, adds an importance nuance to this story: They says that purchases of guns that require official approach have in fact declined in recent months, and that this decline has been exacerbated by the closure of gun dealers (lenta.ru/articles/2020/04/17/guns/).
The Russian government has been seeking to reduce the number of handguns in private hands for some time, putting the Russian Guard in charge of a complex registration process which grants approval to few applicants who want to own what is, as the journalists say, “the most effective means of self-defense.”
That has led to a dramatic increase in the popularity and purchases of other forms of self-defense which do not require licenses or approval, including pneumatic pistols and knives. “We expected demand would grow, but we didn’t think it would grow so much” – it is up 300 to 400 percent over the last months, Sergey Zadorozhny, who runs an Internet self-defense store.
Some of this rise is seasonal, given the various holidays people may give presents at; but “citizens are purchasing like mad men, as if they are preparing for the end of the world.” Not only are they buying more pneumatic pistols, he says; they are buying far more gas cartridges so that they can be used.
They are purchasing pneumatic and signal guns “even though they understand that using these to defense themselves would be illegal,” Zadorozhny says. They are also buying iron clubs and other means in the hopes that these will keep them safe. “People are really panicking. They are frightened by a future they cannot see.”
While stores are closed, the Internet trade in such weaponry goes on; and the business owner says that he does not think the peak in sales of self-defense equipment has yet been reached. And there is one unexpected set of purchasers: Russian police who have discovered that their bosses have not laid in enough supplies.
Another part of the self-defense market in Russia involves knives. It has grown about 35 percent in recent months, Mikhail Kulygin of the Bestblades.ru online store says. He notes that his customers no longer want knives just for show and to impress their friends: they want knives that can be used to defend themselves.
The problem is that most such knives on the Russian market are from China and the US. The borders are closed and he doesn’t expect to be able to restock sufficiently to meet demand until the end of the year at the earliest.