Ukrainians flock to gun stores, ranges in response to Russia threat

Even before Vladimir Putin announced that he was recognizing the sovereign independence of two eastern Ukrainian provinces (and demonstrated exactly how “independent” they really are by sending thousands of troops to the region within hours of his proclamation), many Ukrainians were taking an interest in owning a gun for the first time in their lives.

We reported just a few days ago on the debate in government circles about relaxing the country’s current gun control laws, but it turns out that a lot of residents aren’t willing to wait for the laws to change, especially with adversaries at their doorstep.

Twenty-year-old law student Maria Skoropad is getting her first gun for her and her family. She’s also training to fire it.

“We decided that we have to learn how to use the weapons before buying it because we don’t want to harm ourselves,” she said.

One young person after the next is rotating through for training at a gun store and shooting range in Lviv.

“We understand that we have to take care of ourselves,” Skoropad continued. “And if somebody will come to our homes … We have to know how to rescue our families ourselves.”

In some cases, the Ukrainians who are flocking to gun stores and ranges may be looking to join up with an organized defense force, but it sounds like some folks like Skoropad are willing to stand guard over their own homes in the hopes of keeping the Russian military at bay.

The Lviv Shooting Club’s manager, Andriy Yendzievski, says most people are buying a semi-automatic Kalashnikov rifle.

Some of them were left behind in former Soviet Union-era arsenals, now reconditioned to be used by citizens who say they would take up arms against Russian troops.

Yendzievski says his gun range is suddenly five times more busy.

“We even have whole groups from private companies that want to teach the staff,” he said.

Oksana Petrukh, a 30-year-old who works in technology, is also buying her first gun.

“We are getting ready to meet Russian friends,” she said. “I hope for a better solution to the situation, but we have to get ready for the worst case … Ukraine is now in such a situation that we have to be ready for any kind of situation.”

Petrukh and other armed civilians aren’t going to be able to fend off the Russian army solely with an AK-47, but a nation of armed citizens could make an invasion into the heart of Ukraine a bloody, prolonged, and chaotic affair. And for some Ukrainians who fear they’re on a list of individuals targeted for assassination or imprisonment, having the means to self-defense might very well boil down to the desire to live on their feet instead of dying on their knees.

The belated recognition of the importance of an armed citizenry reminds me of a similar bit of enlightenment on the part of the deposed democratically-elected government of Myanmar. After the military junta assumed power last February, the civilian leaders who were ousted and on the run decided it might be time to take a second look at the gun control laws that had been in place for decades. Of course at that point it was a little late to change the law, but groups fighting the military dictatorship have managed to obtain some arms and ammunition on the black market, while also apparently making some guns of their own.

As I said on today’s show, I believe that our right to keep and bear arms has not only served as a check on foreign aggression, but as a deterrent to any home-grown tyrants here on American soil as well. As James Madison so aptly put it in Federalist 46, Americans possess the “advantage of being armed”, unlike almost every other nation on earth, and our right to keep and bear arms, coupled with the existence of political subdivisions that can serve as a check on an out-of-control federal government, “forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of.”

Our right to keep and bear arms isn’t an anachronism. It’s just as important today as it was in 1776 or 1791. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Just listen to the voices of those flocking to gun ranges in Lviv, or those fighting back against a military dictatorship that slaughters unarmed civilians in Myanmar. They’re not asking for more gun control laws. They’re simply looking for a way to fight for their lives, their nation, their freedom, and their human right of self-defense.