Monday, May 24, 2021

Russia Now has Not Only Columbines but also Post-Columbine-Like Responses

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 22 – Russia now not only has its own “Columbines,” mass school shootings but also responses to those events very similar to American ones: first, demands for draconian gun control followed by suggestions that such controls won’t work followed by the growth of pro-gun organizations committed to opposing limits.

            And what is perhaps most striking is that the outcome in Russia is likely to be remarkably similar as well: the rapid ebbing of expressions of horror and concern about this kind of violence and little or no change in laws or policies regarding gun ownership but the possible growth in gun purchases by those who fear restrictions may finally be put in place.

            This will come as a surprise only to those who aren’t aware of how many guns are now in private hands in Russia – 25 million or more by some estimates – how relatively easy it is for Russians who want guns to get them legally or illegally and how strong a gun culture has developed for hunting and self-defense among Russians since the end of Soviet times.

            Two days after the May 11 school shooting in Kazan, Vladimir Putin called for new and tougher laws to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands. The Russian Orthodox Church called for banning recreational hunting with guns. And the Russian Guard repeated its longstanding calls for righter restrictions ( and

            Parliamentarians added their voices urging that Russians voluntarily turn in their guns so that these weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands and promptly went to work on drafting legislation. But then the problems began. Raising the age for gun ownership from 18 to 21 led to calls for raising the draft age as well (

A national registry could be avoided, deputies said, and conducting psychiatric tests of gun purchasers would be impracticable. And while many gun owners were afraid their ability to own guns was about to be taken away, enthusiasm for introducing more than cosmetic changes in the law has faded (

Commentators began to point out that those who want to use guns in an illegal way will manage to get them and even repeated the longstanding American meme that “guns don’t kill people, people do” with its suggestion that stricter gun control won’t achieve its ends ( and

But perhaps the clearest echo of American actions after mass shootings, some Russians organized in order to defend their right to own arms. In Moscow, a group calling itself “the Armed Citizen” held a founding meeting to promote gun culture in Russia for hunting and self-defense (

The group says that “a civic gun culture” must be promoted in Russia in order to change public attitudes toward guns and their owns. That will allow, the Armed Citizen organizers say, “citizens of the country to have the opportunity to be concerned about their security” and not face expensive and unworkable limitations.


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