Oleksandr OSADKO, attorney
Before 23rd of February 2022 Ukraine was the only country in Europe, legislature of which did not contain a law concerned regulating civil firearm turnover.
On 23rd of February 2022, on the eve of full-scale war of russia against Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has passed at first hearing a bill No 5708 dated 25th of June 2021 “On right to bear civil firearms”, according to which public relations that arise during realization of civil rights to bear firearms are regulated.
The mentioned bill provides certain liberalization of obtaining firearms for citizens, in particular it expands a list of persons, who can get a gun permit. It also proposes to create specific civil firearms record register and at the same time toughens up demands to persons, who are going to be firearms owners.
Ukrainian society has perceived this bill quite controversial. Many experts and specialists spoke with both favorable and critical evaluations. Currently, the draft law has been adopted as a basis, but it is expected that it will be significantly revised.
It should be mentioned that it is not prohibited for Ukrainian people to obtain firearms.
In accordance with clause 12.1 of the Order of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine dated August 21, 1998 No. 622 “the right to purchase hunting smooth-bore weapons and its main parts is exercised by citizens of Ukraine who has reached the age of 21, and to purchase hunting rifled weapons and its main parts a citizen should be at least 25 years old”. It means that any person who has reached the age of 21, has no medical contraindications, has prepared and submitted the necessary package of documents, has the right to purchase a firearm.
However, a discussion in society is provoked precisely by the question of whether it is possible to allow Ukrainians to use short-barreled firearms.
According to the article 27 of Constitution of Ukraine everyone has a right to protect his own life and health, life and health of other persons from illegal actions.
Moreover, clause 5 article 36 of the Penal Code of Ukraine stipulates that it does not exceed the limits of necessary defense and does not result in criminal responsibility for the use of weapons or any other means or objects for protection against an attack by an armed person or an attack by a group of persons, as well as to repel an illegal and violent invasion of a house or other premises, regardless of the severity of the damage, which is inflicted on the one who infringes.
So, we should state, that a person is given by a legislator by a right to use weapon to implement his civil rights.
Against the background of war in Ukraine increasingly more people think of possibility to become firearms owners.
So, according to the results of a survey conducted by the sociological group “Rating” in May 2022, in the conditions of war “the number of those who supports giving Ukrainian citizens the right to own firearms and ammunition more than doubled.” Today, 58% support such initiative, 39% do not support it, thus, for the first time in the history of the study of this issue, the number of supporters of the idea exceeded the number of opponents (in 2018-2021 about a quarter supported such an idea, more than 70% did not support it).
These data are fully correlated with the results of a survey conducted in the “Diia” mobile application, where 59% of respondents believe that all citizens who meet the requirements of the law can have a gun and freely carry it in public places. At the same time, 22% believe that pistols should absolutely not be in circulation among the civilian population.
As we can see, most Ukrainian citizens approve the opportunity to obtain the right to freely own and carry firearms, including pistols.
It should be mentioned, that a lot of experts did not just criticize the bill, but they also forecast further possible negative consequences connected to the procedure of obtaining a right to own firearms liberalization.
Among the problems that Ukrainian society may face, many experts note the increase the use of firearms during the resolution of conflicts at the household level.
They also predict an increasing the number of murders and suicides. For example, they give an example of the experience of the USA, where there is a rather negative trend. For example, states with free gun sales have significantly higher rates of gun suicides and gun deaths than states with restrictions.
There are a lot of comments among lawyers concerned the text of the bill itself. A terminological overload and the controversial definition of certain definitions, the lack of a unified approach to the interpretation of the provisions of law create background for the different understanding and application of the law in practice.
Experts are also threatened by a possible corruption matter of issuing documents for the right to own firearms. Experts agree it is necessary to modernize the procedure for passing a medical commission and create a system for further monitoring of the gun owners.
Experts are unanimous in the fact that the bill, in the version approved on February 23, 2022, needs significant revision in order to make it impossible to interpret and apply the provisions of the law differently.
A lot of people who are for or against the named legislative initiative recall the USA experience firstly, where a civil firearm right is guaranteed by a constitution. Despite quite frequent use of arms on a household level, a state firearm society continues to defend its right to own and to use firearms.
On 25th of May 2022, there was a mass shooting at one of the preliminary schools of Texas, during which 21 persons deceased. After that the President of the country in his address called Congress of the USA for taking measures, concerned prevention of other mass shooting cases at public places and educational institutions.
Meanwhile, on 30 of May 2022, thanks to the US constitutional right to bear arms, a woman shot and killed a man with a gun who attacked and started shooting at a group of about 40 people. The woman remained at the scene after the shooting and cooperated with the investigation. No charges will be brought against her.
When studying the experience of the USA, it should be noted that mass shootings usually take place with the use of firearms (pump-action rifles, carbines), the bearing of which is allowed in Ukraine from the age of 21.
Let’s have a look on this situation in European countries:
Since citizens of Ukraine and thousands of volunteers from other countries defend the territorial integrity and European future of our country today, Ukrainians have perfectly understood the price of security. That is why society’s demand for weapons as a means of defense is justified and relevant.