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Russia: Politician Presents Handgun Ownership Proposal

Alexander Torshin, a Senator from Mari El Republic in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, is already infamous for causing a stir by advocating criminal penalties for the spread of false information [ru] about natural disasters. Now he has presented a report to the Senate raising the possibility of handgun legalization [ru] — an issue he wants decided by a national referendum.

Torshin says his aim is to make Russian society safer by giving people the opportunity to protect themselves from criminals. He also argues that the current legality of gas-powered and rubber-bullet-firing handguns in Russia causes more problems than it solves. Torshin is of the opinion that many Russians misuse such weapons because they feel that it is impossible actually to kill or seriously injure someone. Gun-owners would be more careful, when wielding deadly force, Torshin explains.

Wild Western Festival, Russia, 12 June 2011, photo by Egor Savintsev, copyright © Demotix.

As in the United States, Russian netizens have failed to reach any consensus about the right to bear arms. Many disagree [ru] with Torshin’s conclusion that Russian society is suited to such freedom. Others are also skeptical that such a decision should be left to a national referendum. Feminist writer Maria Arbatova posted to her LiveJournal [ru] a large photo of James Holmes, the Colorado movie theater shooter, adding:

Среди моих знакомых, бряцающих стволами, нет ни одного, кого я считаю “безопасным владельцем оружия.” В основном это мужики-истерики, ощущающие себя неудачниками.

Among my gun toting acquaintances, there is no one whom I would consider a “safe weapon owner.” Mainly they are hysterical men who feel that they are losers.

She continued:

Торшин хочет вынести вопрос на референдум. Но мы-то помним, что если в мире каждый четвёртый нуждается в психиатрической помощи, то у нас в силу тяжелой истории, эта статистика гуще.

Torshin wants to submit this question to a referendum. But we remember that, while a quarter of the world population needs psychiatric help, this demographic is denser here, because of our difficult history.

Other bloggers have concentrated on the economic impact of handgun legalization, as the sale of such weapons means large profits for the various branches of the firearms industry. LJ user matchgirl_ru notes [ru]:

Оказалось, что без его деятельного участия пропадает целый бизнес… по производству короткоствольного огнестрельного оружия. А это по самым скромным оценкам, за 10 лет принесет оружейным баронам более 746 млрд. К этому можно присобачить всякие курсы, школы. А чиновникам можно будет поиметь свой барыш с разного рода лицензий, разрешений на ношение и покупку (отдельно), справок.

It appears as if — without [Torshin’s] engagement — the entire handgun business … would go to waste. But given the most humble assessments, weapons barons stand to earn more than 746 billion within a decade. Add to these profits the proceeds from various training courses and school services. And bureaucrats will get their own cut from issuing licenses, carrying and purchase permits, and certificates.

Members of the LJ gun-owner community ru_guns highlight [ru] that Torshin is also proposing new insurance regulations:

 […] предлагает ввести что-то типа ОСАГО для КСовладельцев на лечение подстреленных;

[Torshin] suggests something like mandatory car insurance for owners of short-barreled firearms, in order to compensate future victims for their medical expenses after being wounded by such weapons.

Aleksandr Torshin (right) and Evgeny Tugolukov (left), 9 June 2011, photo by Kremlin Presidential Service, CC BY-SA 3.0; Wikimedia Commons.

In a bit of fun, tabloid journalist Oleg Lurie imagined [ru] how opposition rallies might look like in a Russia under a new gun control regime. In his scenario, a gun-owning citizen finds himself in a scuffle between protestors and the police, only to be searched by the latter, after which law enforcement officers seize his licensed weapon and arrest him illegally:

 Легкий шмон и твой ТТ уже в руках сотрудников полиции.

A breezy pat-down and your TT (Tulskiy Tokarev) is in the hands of the police.

Perhaps it is a good thing that Torshin’s idea is not yet a bill (let alone a law), but rather a “test of public opinion” [ru]. There are, after all, plenty of opinions to go around.

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