To arms: What legalization of light weapons means for Ukrainians

Author : Tetiana Sviatenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

"Armed self-defense" is not an empty phrase, as over the past year, street crime has increased several times in Ukraine, and the trend is disappointing,
10:32, 18 January 2017

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Ukraine has been talking about legalization of short firearms and granting permits to freely buy guns for a long time. Two years ago, the relevant draft law has been registered in the Verkhovna Rada. But the bill is waiting in the wings, i.e. the required number of votes. In turn, the question itself does not lose its relevance: the country faces numerous crimes that make weapons legalization supporters actively promote this topic in the mass, in which they, indeed, succeed. One of the last resonate cases was the conflict on the road. One of the opponents was armed, he was armed with a premium gun, in addition, this man works in the Verkhovna Rada as an MP. People's Deputy Serhiy Pashynsky shot the man’s foot, who was waving a bottle of low-alcohol beverage. The story immediately became widely publicized and again provoked a wave of conversations concerning legalization of weapons.

Related: Pashynsky's case: litmus test for Ukraine's vicious judicial system

Thus, among the supporters of legalization of short firearms are MP from the "People's Front" Andriy Teteruk, leader of the Radical Party Oleg Lyashko, Prosecutor General Yury Lutsenko and Bloc of Petro Poroshenko; while Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko and resident of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko consider that the legalization of weapons will lead to the escalation violence. The Interior Ministry continues to believe that Ukrainians have an optimum level of access to weapons.

Related: MP Pashynsky’s shooting incident: Interviews underway

So, why do we need legalization of weapons, if no one is prohibited to buy it in Ukraine, and almost everyone can buy traumatic weapons? Representative of "All-Ukrainian Association of weapons owners" Mykola Orekhov, believes that legalization of firearms by the adoption of the law would restrict arms trafficking. "Today, Ukraine does not have a law that limits or prohibits trafficking in firearms. We have de jure just free circulation of weapons. There should be a law that would set some the rules and procedures by which citizens will have the right for armed defense," he says.

Today, the situation in Ukraine is that "armed self-defense" is not an empty phrase. Over the past year, street crime has increased several times, and the trend is disappointing, which in turn raises questions about effective ways to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Related: Pashynsky changed his testimony during interrogation, - victim’s lawyer

"When I worked in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, I strongly opposed arms legalization. Of course, legalization of weapons in terms of the absence of a legal culture in humans can lead to additional tragic cases and an increase the statistics of illegal use of weapons, serious and medium crimes, wounds and kills. But now, when, in fact, the state cannot protect our citizens from criminal lawlessness, and criminality has the opportunity to get weapons and to carry out attacks (including the flows of cheap weapons from the ATO zone or other criminal means), looting, I believe that it is necessary to seriously talk about what we need to legalize short firearms and thus enable citizens to protect themselves," claimed the former speaker of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Volodymyr Polishchuk.

Another argument in favor of the legalization of weapons is the Constitution of Ukraine. According to the Basic Law, all Ukrainians are equal, but in the aspect of firearms ownership, this rule is violated. This situation is due to the fact that Interior Ministry and Ministry of Defense have the right of granting individual citizens short firearms. For example, the journalist and wife of Minister of Informational Policy Yana Konotop was awarded with a premium weapons by the Minister of Defense, and by the Minister of Internal Affairs. In addition, Minister of Interior also granted  of the Prime Minister Groisman, National Bank head Gontareva, Minister of Education Lilia Grinevich, Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Andriy Parubiy, Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko and Minister of Ecology Semerak with weapons. Surely, the citizens of Ukraine cannot know who was awarded with premium weaponss. Such lists are not publicly available, despite the fact that they are not secret ones.

Open source

Yana  Konotop with her husband, Yuriy Stets, Minister of Informational Policy, and Minister and Defense Stepan Poltarak

Related: The list of officials who received 400 weapons from Avakov was made public

"We have no right to have weapons for self-defense. But those who are awarded with weapons by the orders of the Interior Minister, Minister of Defense, enjoy this right. And we do not know who exactly has the right to defend itself. Although, according to the Constitution, we are all equal," says Orekhovskiy.

But the Interior Ministry says that citizens must not necessarily freely buy and use short-rifled firearms. "The current level of public access to the weapons is optimal. Unless there are some limitations with respect to traumatic weapons, but if we are talking about firearms, now citizens are absolutely calmly enjoy the right to have firearms, but not short-rifled," said the speaker Ministry of Internal Affairs Artem Shevchenko.

However, the ministry did not deny the need for consideration of the bill: "The bill on turnover of weapons would help to carefully review the rules. Ministry of Interior does not allow including the access to short firearms, like with the hunting weapon. We should carefully look at what standards are recorded by the lobbyists; this is the point of the controversy."

Related: Parliament legalized foreigners fighting for Ukraine in the ATO

Ukraine should not just consider a bill that would create a rule to determine the modalities and culture of behavior with a weapon, but also it must put in order the rest of regulations concerning weapons. The fact is that today police instruction number 622 regulates the civilian weapons turnover. This instruction is accepted on the basis of laws that have lost power, and it was incompetent to regulate the situation. However, the Interior Ministry is working on it.

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Everything sounds convincing and reasonable at the level of high matters, that is, the laws and the concept of justice itself, but how it will affect the lives of each of us? Would it influence the average Ukrainian, and who would be able to buy a gun?

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"Particularly, there are no high risks there. That law, which was registered in the Verkhovna Rada 2 years ago, which was developed by experts and 30 People's Deputies, defines a procedure for obtaining a firearm. In principle, that person will have both legal and technical knowledge to no avoid the unforeseen situations. If a person wants to kill, she can do it with a kitchen knife too. Usually, crimes are committed from unreported, i.e. illegal weapons. So I think that in general the crime situation will be reduced, if we adopted such a law," says Orekhovskiy.

Polishchuk is convinced that legalization of weapons to reduce the level of street crime: "Perhaps there will be some cases, as it happens in the US, when children have asses to the weapons. But crime statistics can be improved due to the fact that the people who defend themselves, respectively, using a weapon, will warn the criminals to attack and make other assaults, like looting and robbery."

Related: Prosecutor's office describes Pashinsky’s weapon

If we talk about the experience of States in this matter, then there is a separation of civilian and military weapons. Lawyer Maxim Borisov explains that there are different cartridges, i.e. different charges and material of the bullet.

One way or another, but by less the harsh statements of MIA concerning legalization of weapons and the need to consider the bill, as well as numerous advantages, indicated by the human rights activists, Ukraine has all chances for adoption of the draft law.

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