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Culture & Religion

Russia’s Pro-Gun Lobby Is Finding Its Voice

In the country with the highest murder rate in Europe, a movement that barely existed a year ago makes its case for liberalizing gun laws.

What’s the Latest Development?

Earlier this month, rallies in various Russian cities were held to encourage the government to ease restrictions on gun ownership for citizens. And within hours of the Connecticut elementary school shooting on December 14, the Moscow-based Right to Bear Arms issued a statement on its Web site calling for more access to guns. Both events are evidence that the country’s pro-gun lobby, which was virtually nonexistent until recently, is growing and taking at least some of their rhetoric from American gun culture.

What’s the Big Idea?

Most Russians are prohibited from owning handguns and other assault weapons, although they are allowed to own a certain type of shotgun. According to a 2011 poll, 80 percent oppose any loosening of restrictions. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reiterated this on December 19, saying, “The rules that exist in the United States are absolutely unacceptable for Russia or even for the United States itself.” However, support for liberalizing gun laws is growing in both ruling and opposition political parties, and one activist, Artyom Ryabov, says that the increase in protests and the potential for future instability warrants a new look at the status quo. “In order to stabilize [the country], the first thing…is to allow citizens to possess weapons. Paradoxically, this will calm the citizens.”

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