Ukrainian Parliament moves to let citizens carry guns for self-defense

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

A follow-up to yesterday’s Cam & Co, where we talked about the number of Ukrainians who are flocking to gun stores and ranges in response to Vladimir Putin’s aggression. While many citizens themselves are eager to get armed to protect themselves, their families, and their homeland, the country’s gun control laws are still incredibly restrictive and don’t really recognize the right of armed self-defense.

Now, though, that’s quickly changing.

Ukraine’s parliament on Wednesday voted to approve in the first reading a draft law which gives permission to Ukrainians to carry firearms and act in self-defence.

“The adoption of this law is fully in the interests of the state and society,” the authors of the draft law said in a note, adding that the law was needed due to “existing threats and dangers for the citizens of Ukraine.”

Better late than never, I suppose, though it was within the interests of the state and society for the Ukrainian people to be able to act in self-defense long before Vladimir Putin declared that the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk are sovereign states that must be protected by Russian “peacekeepers.”

We don’t know how many Ukrainians will take advantage of the newfound (and perhaps short-lived) ability to carry a firearm in defense of self and state, and as my friend Ed Morrissey notes over at HotAir, the presence of armed citizens may be more about fighting a guerilla war after the country has been overrun than checking an invasion itself.

In that sense, this could potentially unfold as a kind of real-world Red Dawn, a film that offered a highly implausible foreign invasion of the US as a kind of patriotic cultural rally point. That scenario has always been far more plausible in eastern Europe and on Russia’s frontier. Gun-control laws in those places made even less sense than they do here, perhaps especially after the last thirteen-plus years after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Georgia, and then the last eight of his occupation of eastern Ukraine. Maybe this will be a Червона зоря (Red Dawn) moment for Ukraine.

Still, this full mobilization of the civilian population carries some risks, too. It will make it harder to hold Russia accountable for civilian deaths, as Putin will use any widespread partisan resistance to justify atrocities. (Of course, Putin likes to invent such pretexts anyway, as his speech this week proved.) If a Russian invasion pushes back Ukraine’s military toward population centers, the risks of friendly-fire casualties in both directions will rise sharply thanks to impossible coordination requirements as those forces overlap.

There’s no clean and easy way to fight a ground war, unfortunately. And while those risks are real, as Ed notes, so too are the risks of living under the thumb of an authoritarian regime, especially when that regime’s predecessors were responsible for the deaths of millions of citizens in the name of progress and scientific socialism.

The easy options don’t exist for Ukraine any longer. This is a “break glass in case of emergency” moment, which is why the country’s parliament is now apparently willing to reverse decades of restrictions and allow citizens the ability to carry firearms. I just hope it’s not a case of too little, too late.