The dispute over the legalization of civilian weapons has been going on in Russia since 1992. It was then that the first reservation appeared that our people are not yet ready for this. 20 years have passed, but from the point of view of the ruling elite, the Russians are still not ripe for such legalization. The newspaper “VPC” has already published an interview with the head of the movement “The Right to Arms”, Maria Butina. Today we decided to revisit this topic and talked with Maria about the prospects for permission to carry weapons in our country.
- Maria, what, in your opinion, is the main reason for the population’s rejection of the legalization of civilian weapons?
- In ignorance and lack of weapons culture. In the same United States, politicians may even want to ban everything, but the weapons culture of American society is so high that making such insane demands like a ban on civilian weapons for the ruling stratum in the US is political suicide.
In Russia, the situation is opposite. The majority of our elite understand that civilian weapons are not a problem, but the main argument against the legalization of pistols is against the people. By the way, even in the modern Baltic republics, where 20 has been allowed by civilians for years to own pistols, up to 80 percent of the population, not knowing this, strongly opposes the possibility of legalization.
If a solid and efficient organization of owners of civilian weapons, uniting at least one hundred thousand real people, appeared in Russia, politicians would have to listen to the opinion of such a force.
- And our government itself is the carrier of such weapons culture?
- The authorities love to shoot. Many members of the elite have premium weapons. Unfortunately, we have not completely outlived the vestiges of the feudal society with its system of class privileges. Many gun owners sincerely believe that the mob does not need this privilege. Therefore, the majority of major opponents of civilian weapons are security forces, people directly connected with weapons.
- Opponents are stubbornly trying to stick the right to arms to the label of the paid agents of the bloody arms lobby, but you don’t make much money in manufacturing and trading military civilian weapons. It turns out that the idea itself is important to you? No business?
- For most successful businessmen, the idea comes first. Money can not be eaten, it is just a resource for the realization of certain ideals and aspirations. We are enthusiasts and believe in what we do, we consider it necessary. Hopefully, over time, we will grow from a regular community of enthusiasts into a real lobbying mechanism to protect the rights and interests of the owners of weapons and the arms industry.
There is nothing reprehensible in defending the interests of these taxpayers, forcing legislators and perpetrators to reckon with them, as there is nothing wrong with the work of a builder, lawyer, hunter or security guard. In this regard, the term “bloody weapon lobbyists” is not a charge for me, but a compliment.
The blood of the enemies of society, lawbreakers, rapists, murderers and robbers should be poured if we do not want the blood of law-abiding citizens, your wives, children and old people to flow. With the same success, surgery can be called a bloody industry, in which, by the way, errors and failures occur much more often than among weapon owners.
- So, the state does not trust its citizens in Russia, believing that they should not be given real weapons for self-defense. Why doesn’t everyone hurt such distrust?
- Hurt dignity can only be if it is. We, the owners of legal weapons, self-confident, taking responsibility, it hurts. There are no people who are ready to leave their family unprotected and completely shift the responsibility onto the shoulders of the police, who will almost certainly not be able to arrive on time.
People simply do not understand the essence and meaning of civilian weapons and live in their parallel dimension, where "a woman who was raped and killed is morally superior to an aunt with a smoking gun and a dead rapist at her feet." Try adding your loved ones, young children or elderly parents to this equation ... Those who believe that non-violence in such cases is morally above the necessary defense are insane.
- Opponents of the movement say that it is only possible to resolve and disarm people will not succeed. It's true?
- We don't know well history. We forgot that before 1918, military pistols were sold to citizens in Russia with the right to wear; we forgot that before 70s of the last century there were no licenses for hunting weapons. Under the conditions of this historical vacuum of knowledge, ideas arise that disarm the legally armed population will not succeed. Lenin, Hitler, Pol Pot quite successfully did it. With known consequences.
- Some hotheads offer to seek an All-Russian referendum on the right to arms. Do I need it? Is it possible to?
- The referendum is relevant primarily to overcome the argument of some politicians that the people are against. Appealing to the will of the people? Well, let's hold a referendum or do not use this excuse for the urgent reform.
The referendum will only benefit the arms community. It will be an event unprecedented for modern Russia that will put the issue of civilian weapons in the spotlight. In the process of preparing for the referendum, approximately 10 – 20 percent of Russians will move to the position of supporters of legalizing pistols only against the background of the multitude of facts and opinions that will come to the surface during the discussion of this topic.
- What are the remaining 80 percent of convinced opponents?
- You know, there are virtually no conscious opponents of the rights of citizens to weapons. There are several unscrupulous apparatchiks interested in the shadow market. There are really crazy, sick people who demand total disarmament and believe in pacifism. And there is a scared, crippled, misinformed majority. Not these amorphous, intimidated opponents of civilian weapons will come to the referendum, but an active minority of supporters. So we have every chance to win on a similar referendum. That is why the administration is easier and more convenient to implement our requirements without any referendum, because then it can limit itself to half measures and delay reforms.
- How long does it take to say that our people are ready for the legalization of civilian weapons? Who and according to what plan should do this training?
- “The people are not ready” - these are excuses. Politicians understand that supporters of the return of full rights to weapons are becoming more serious force and can no longer just send us to all four sides. The fact that this excuse is absolutely untenable is also understandable. In this respect, I like most of all the analogy with a child wrapped in diapers. Instead of teaching the infant to walk, the distraught parent keeps him wrapped, claiming that before he learns to walk in some mysterious way, he is not wrapped up. The reasoning that our society cannot receive these or other rights and freedoms, since it is not ready for this, is from the same opera. This is blatant abuse of common sense and logic.
Almost all the post-socialist countries of Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Warsaw block went to the legalization of pistols. It was thanks to this that they immediately had a decent, correct and limited power without execution tanks opposition, as well as low crime and acceptable levels of corruption. In Russia, due to the defenselessness of the population, there was a rampant crime of the 90s. And then the people demanded a strong hand. If pistols for civilian possession had been allowed in Russia since 1992, there would have been no such lawlessness of crime, reforms would have been consistent and integral, and we would now be a prosperous, dynamically developing country, and not a society lost in time and space, still undecided what it is building, which way it goes, whether it is on the way to Europe. A strong, self-governing legal society is impossible without massive civilian weapons.
- In 1969, an army officer, dressed in a police uniform, fired his squad pistol into a government motorcade. After that, army and police officers were forbidden to keep service guns constantly with them. Our system has changed, a whole chain of leaders has gone into oblivion, and this prohibition is alive and well. At the same time, the generals of the Ministry of Internal Affairs constantly insist that only specialized and trained people should have a weapon. Where is the logic here?
- We should not look for logic where there is only cowardice and corruption interest. The highest hierarchs of the security forces are guarded round the clock by the armed FSO and do not deprive themselves of premium weapons. The problems of their grassroots composition are of little concern. They fear that an armed policeman might do something wrong and they will lose their posts for it. Therefore, this vicious logic continues to dominate.
Strictly speaking, even large police commanders do not say that they are completely against it. They confess in personal conversations: it doesn’t matter to them, but since their names are on television as opponents, they oppose it. There are literally a few paranoids who believe that civilian weapons pose some kind of revolutionary threat, and despite the insanity of this idea, it is sufficiently entrenched at the top of departments simply because they are organically interested in pulling all power and resources towards themselves.
Therefore, it is logical that the law enforcement agencies are officially in their old position - to regulate everything as much as possible and not to allow anyone to do anything, even if it hurts them, and gangsters kill policemen more often than police gangsters.
- Shooting clubs are widely represented in the movement. In other countries in such clubs you can shoot from whatever brands you want and small arms systems. And what kind of weapons in our clubs?
- The most unique and representative shooting complex in Russia allows you to shoot only from the 21 position. If in Moscow shooting galleries there is still a relatively small, but still significant arsenal of weapons available for shooting, then in the provinces the situation, frankly, is critical. There types of weapons available in shooting ranges are sometimes limited to a few sporty "little balls" and air pistols. This is also a significant aspect of the imperfection of the existing legal regime of weapons. And if the limitations of its range are still half the problem, then a far more glaring problem is the overestimated cost of rifle practices in Russia in the context of our closed and insufficiently competitive market of rifle industry, directly determined by the limited nature of civilian weapons in the country, with an overestimated cost of ammunition. This is not just a problem of the leisure of those who like to shoot, it is a direct blow to the national weapon culture, which affects our shooting sport, our weapon industry, and ultimately even our defense capability is undermined. After all, a system of voluntary and accessible galleries could significantly increase the number of highly skilled respectable shooters, who are not only the personnel base of power structures, but also the basis of the military reserve, our mobilization potential, which is undermined by existing flaws in the legal regime of weapons in the country.
- Still, opponents of the movement say that if you allow the shortbag, people will go to jail en masse for exceeding the limits of self-defense. This is true?
- It is important not to exaggerate. The cases of Ivannikova, Tarasov, Kudryavtseva and Gegham Sargsyan showed that by killing a criminal in self-defense, a person does not necessarily become a criminal himself. There are many cases of the legal use of civilian weapons, when no repressive consequences have followed. Just these things do not get wide public resonance. For example, according to the regional police department, only in 2008, with the help of traumatic weapons, were 30 cases of necessary defense fixed, each of which was recognized as legal. Here, as in the case of civilian self-defense weapons in general, the most flagrant are the flagrant cases of law enforcement errors, and not their adequate responses. Therefore, the very thesis that the use of self-defense weapons in self-defense in Russia will necessarily lead to criminal prosecution is incorrect.
However, there is certainly a problem, and the very fact that the defended party has to prove its integrity and will certainly initiate a criminal case against it, even if it is then closed, is unacceptable and does not contribute to the growth of civil liability. With the latest ruling of the Supreme Court, which significantly details and expands the concept of “necessary self-defense”, the situation has improved, but this success should certainly be further developed.
It is important to understand that it is better to be in prison than to lie in a grave. 80 percent of cases of successful self-defense, according to world experience, falls on battle pistols. Despite the fact that their number in the hands of the population is approximately identical to the number of long-barreled weapons. Therefore, the priority is still to provide citizens with effective means of self-defense, even if this is not accompanied by the liberalization of the legal regime of self-defense. It will save thousands of innocent lives every year and minimize violent crime.
- In countries where the right of citizens to weapons operates in its entirety, the military industry and the economy as a whole have certain advantages. What can you say about this?
- The idea that big people decide the fate of the country, and the population somewhere on the sidelines should stand up - this is our main problem, due to the historical upheavals of the national state inertia. Gradually, this problem is being overcome, an awareness of the importance of a private-state partnership comes, but this awareness has not yet fully reached the fundamental issues of security and weapons. This is the reason for such an abnormally high level of violent crime in Russia, which is several times higher than the level of criminal violence in neighboring countries. For the same reason, there are systemic problems in our military-industrial complex, which is experiencing aging personnel and a shortage of funds. Hence the problem of the shortage of draftees in the Armed Forces, while in some countries volunteers themselves form the backbone of the national armed reserve.
- That is, the situation directly threatens our national security?
- Yes. After all, if, for example, to compare the scale of ammunition and weapons production in Russia and the United States, the lack of balance of forces will be evident. Every second American family is already armed today, in their country about 300 of millions of small arms are only in the use of citizens. There are even more than a thousand combat-ready privately owned tanks (for comparison: all the armed forces of Ukraine have 700 tanks, Mexico have 45), every year in the United States more than 12 billions of all kinds of cartridges are produced. There is not enough local production capacity, so this year private arms companies from the United States signed contracts for the supply of a billion rounds of ammunition for the needs of the civilian market only from Russia. The paradox of the situation is that today, to a large extent, it is the American citizens who allow our arms enterprises to stay afloat (up to 40 percent of Izhmash’s civilian products are exported to the US), especially if you deduct state orders from calculations - an unstable phenomenon that our MIC to the strongest blow in 90-s.
- And yet, can we say that the market for civilian weapons is not very profitable?
- I would not take it to say. Up to 70 percent of the global array of small arms, which has almost a billion units, is accounted for by individuals. This array over the past five years has grown by 35 percent, demonstrating its growth even in times of crisis and failure in other segments of the economy. Thus, in 2007 – 2011, real sales of civilian weapons in Russia grew by 47,6 percent. Today, for example, from 53 to 70, the percentage of weapons production in Izhmash falls on the civilian market and this share increases every year, which is a general pattern in this area.
Meanwhile, in Russia, all stocks of small arms are limited to several tens of millions of units. The number of owners of civilian weapons in our country is five million, the weapons in the hands of the population are ten times less than in the United States, while the crime murder rate is three times higher. Our mobilization potentials are simply not comparable.
- Indeed ... Before the military mobilization, the absolute majority of the best Soviet snipers during the Great Patriotic War were either hunters, or sports shooters, or participants in the OSOAVIAHIM system.
- Yes! What is happening now? In modern Estonia, by the way, not only imported weapons are two to three times cheaper than in Russia, but even domestic products, such as our Barnaul Cartridge Plant, are several times cheaper. People who are seriously involved in shooting sports are forced to do this in other countries or at least buy products abroad; shooting practice in Russia is a very expensive pleasure. And now, at times, the fines for shooting in the wrong places have been tightened, while the infrastructure of shooting ranges and shooting galleries in the country is in its infancy, the opening of a new rifle facility requires overcoming huge administrative and bureaucratic barriers. What development of weapons culture, mobilization potential and support of the military industrial complex can be discussed today?
It is important to understand that by investing even trillions of state rubles in this area without attracting private investment and initiative, we will not be able to get high efficiency, but rather we will get new Mistral purchases and corruption scandals in the Ministry of Defense.