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Ukraine has launched a public project "The law of Ukraine "On weapons." The initiators of this project intend to create a bill on the basis of public opinion on the free sale of short-barreled and rifled lethal firearms and submit it then to the Verkhovna Rada. The initiators include the Ukrainian association of weapon owners, All-Ukrainian federation of practical shooting sports, Ukrainian federation of security professionals and 10 non-governmental organizations. They offer to draft a law to legalize the free sale of firearms. Appropriate proposals will be made by the citizens, who are interested in the legalization of firearms.
The text of the bill will be posted in the Internet, and everyone will be able to make his suggestions. Then, the editorial board will determine the final version of the document, and then the text (about by the end of 2014) will be sent to the heads of all parliamentary factions, which will have to consider it and put to the vote.
As a reminder, this is not the first attempt to develop and implement a similar law through the Verkhovna Rada. For example, in 2008, the group of deputies of various fractions developed a draft law "On turnover of non-military weapons", proposed to allow the free sale of weapons but non-lethal. The corresponding document was eventually handed over to the Interior Ministry for revision, and on May 15, 2013, the Cabinet approved it and sent back for revision to the Interior Ministry. In August, the project was finally submitted to the Parliament.
ForUm has asked experts and politicians to learn if it is necessary to allow widespread carrying of firearms in Ukraine, and what positive and negative effects we should expect.
Serhiy Shabovta, president of Ukrainian federation of security professionals:
- Ukraine does need the law on firearms. The arms traffic in our country is heavy, and we still do not have transparent, but strict law on weapons. Such law must exist, as it enables to exercise the right to protection. Several articles of our Constitution say that a citizen has a right to defend himself with any legal mean, but its only words if there is no law, which actually defines our rights and possibilities.
At the same time, non-lethal weapon permit can be very dangerous for Ukrainian society.The draft bill, introduced by the Cabinet this summer, gives open access to non-lethal weapons. But we believe that describing non-lethal weapons as an innocent mean of defense is wrong, as these non-lethal weapons strike dead as any firearm.
Moreover, the use of traumatic weapons complicates the investigation process. Non-lethal or traumatic weapon cannot be identified, as its bullets badly deform and cannot be submitted for ballistics examination, like firearms.
Dmytro Shpenov, deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on supremacy of law and justice:
- The matter of firearm permit is complicated and controversial. On one hand, it can theoretically improve the criminal situation in the country. Thus, in US less than 0,2% of legal firearms are used to commit crimes, other 99.8% have never been involved into illegal affairs. Moreover, one third of American criminals get injured or detained by armed citizens.
On the other hand, crime rate in Ukraine is not that high, but considering the influence of mass culture, firearm permits may strengthen the illusion of impunity. The matter mostly concerns young people. Having watched "cool" action movies they may start administrating justice as they see fit. We've had cases when people honestly admitted they did like in a movie. What if a movie about "brave" terrorists? Thus, I think this issue should be considered more carefully.
Our country has such peculiarities as violent raids or election campaigns. Imagine raiders not with bats, but with guns. Moreover, our country still suffers high level of corruption. It means that Ukraine has national specifics, and foreign experience cannot be adopted without modifications. I understand that in Moldova or Baltic countries the law on firearms has not done any harm, but still I would not hurry to arm every citizen.
Serhiy Burlakov, acting chief of Interior Ministry's Public Relations Office:
- Legal firearms are often used to solve conflicts, not to defend health and property. Last year 357 crimes involving firearms were registered in Ukraine, and 48 out of them were committed with legal firearms, officially registered. 34 people died. In the majority of cases legal firearms are used to settle scores in conflict situations, while defense of property of health is rare cases in our country. At the same time the Interior Ministry has refused to comment on the legal aspect of the initiative, saying they have not seen the document yet.
Volodymyr Moldovanov, instructor of Odesa department of All-Ukrainian federation of practical shooting sports:
- Adoption of the law "On weapons", initiated by public shooting organizations, is of no use for Ukrainian police. Similar law was adopted in Moldova, and the crime rate there has indeed decreased. The authors of the initiative in Ukraine has taken Moldavian law as a basis and included principles from similar laws of Baltic countries, where weapons-bearing is permitted as well. However, I doubt that the law will be adopted in Ukraine. In the above mentioned countries the crime rate has decreased, but due to this the Interior Ministries had to cut the staff. I doubt our Ministry will agree to halve forces. Our officials will never ever reduce themselves.
Moreover, the legalization of weapons will discipline citizens and increase the level of consciousness when using firearms.
Serhiy Lvovich, president of All-Ukrainian federation of practical shooting sports:
- If regular citizens get the right to possess firearms, it will reduce the genera rate of crime in the country. Psychologists and criminal law experts know that helplessness of a victim provokes attackers, but even a potential possibility to meet resistance keep them off. This is an axiom, confirmed by analysis results: according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, out of 10 people defending themselves with a firearm, only every fifth got injured, while among those who had to defend themselves without weapon - every second.
The effectiveness of non-lethal or traumatic weapon, as well as its positive influence on criminal situation, is doubtful. Yes, hunting weapons are more effective for house defense, but the question is how to provide security outdoors.
Many civilized countries solve the problem by a simple way of granting the right to possess and carry handguns. The point is not in the effectiveness of the very gun, but in offender's awareness of a possibility that his potential victim may put up a fight. Believe me, if everyone has a right to carry a firearm, nobody will want to check whether you are armed or not. The price of such check may be too high.
Heorhiy Uchaikin, head of the monitoring council of Ukrainian association of weapon owners:
- Ukraine is the only country of Europe, where purchase, possession, keeping and use of weapon are not regulated by the law. Poor gun control leads to violations and rise in crime. In all civilized countries, including the majority of former USSR republics, there are relevant laws aimed at maintenance of public order and reduction of crime rate.
The basic concepts of the Constitution of Ukraine declare life sacred and guarantee the right to liberty and security of person, the right to defend life, honor and dignity, as well as life, health, honor and dignity of family members, private property will all legal means possible. So, we have the right to defend ourselves. But how? Should every Ukrainian do box or karate? And what women or older people should do? Carry a pepper spray? It is hardly an effective means of protection. Gun, on the other hand, is an effective alternative, but the right to possession of this weapon is not legally stipulated.
Adoption of the law "On weapons" will secure the right of citizens to defend their lives and will demonstrate state's trust in its citizens. Moreover, it will reduce the rate of street and general crimes, as well as the corruption in the sphere of arm traffic, will support the development of national arms production, will create new jobs and swing the sector out of stagnation. In the result, it will improve defense capability of the country and development of shooting sport.
Almost two million people possess weapons in Ukraine legally (hunters, sportsmen, licensed owners) and another half a million use firearms at service or work.