As my colleague Tom Knighton pointed out on Tuesday, Russia already has some incredibly restrictive gun laws on the books, but Vladimir Putin is ordering more restrictions after a school shooting in the city of Kazan left nine people dead and dozens more wounded.
The suspect in the shooting is a 19-year old who used a legally purchased semi-automatic shotgun in the attack, and now the Kremlin wants the Russian National Guard to re-examine the legal status of all guns that can be registered as hunting firearms, as this shotgun apparently was.
Those aren’t the only possible changes, however. The BBC reports that a number of new gun control laws are being discussed as well.
But Russian politicians say better data collection on gun owners and sales is needed.
MP Anatoly Vyborny, a specialist in that area, called for a central online database to alert officials. He said it should show, for example, if police had reported a gun owner to be a drug addict or alcoholic.
There are also calls to raise the minimum age for licence-holders – currently it is 18.
The most senior MP, Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, said Tatarstan’s school security was better than in some other regions of Russia. But some youths there had been attracted to “extremist groups” he added.
To get a gun licence in Russia you need certificates from medics, including a psychiatrist and ophthalmologist, and you have to complete a course on safe handling of weapons. You must then get a special safe to store the weapon and have it inspected by police, BBC Monitoring reported in 2018.
But there is a large black market in guns – partly fuelled by the eastern Ukraine conflict – and illegal guns are bought on the dark web, usually with cryptocurrency.
Imagine that; a draconian set of gun controls on legal gun owners, and yet there’s still a large illicit market for firearms. Who would have ever guessed?
As for the psychiatric examination that all legal gun owners must undergo, one member of Russia’s parliament says the current system doesn’t go far enough. Vitaly Milonov wants psych doctors to examine every legal gun owner “several times a year”, and says that legal gun owners should also be subjected to random drug testing.
Of course none of that will curb the black market on firearms, but just like in the United States, anti-gun politicians are more than happy to start by going after legally-owned guns and legal gun owners. In fact, I’m surprised we haven’t seen Sen. Chris Murphy or Rep. Eric Swalwell call for Russian-style psychiatric evaluations of the more than 100-million American gun owners too.
It’s not exactly shocking to see an authoritarian like Putin embrace more restrictions on legal gun ownership, but it’s still worth acknowledging. Totalitarians love gun control as much as they love cracking down on political speech that criticizes the regime, and in both cases it’s about letting the public know where they stand.. or rather, where they kneel; under the boot of an oppressive government.