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Should an ordinary person have the right to use weapons
Should an ordinary person have the right to use weapons to protect his or her property and life? Politicians, public figures and common people have been debating this question for a very long time.

Practice shows that the need to obtain a permit to own weapons does not increase crime but often helps to reduce it, and that fear of weapons is mostly fuelled by lack of objective information.

There are several myths about the so-called civilian arms. One of them says that Russians are the least protected group of people in the world, which is not true.

Since 1994, all legally capable Russians without a criminal record can acquire a license to own long-barreled guns (double-barreled and multi-shot guns that are reloaded manually or are semiautomatic) for self-defense.

Russia holds an intermediary position on the issue of civilian weapons.

In Israel, the United States and Finland, the law sets only minimal limits on the right of citizens to buy, keep and carry weapons. But the authorities in Britain and Australia have repeatedly reviewed legislation to impose stricter limits on the gun laws.

Russian legislation limits the right to use firearms for self-defense. Indeed, long-barreled guns are quite unwieldy, and short-barreled guns - revolvers and pistols - are better suited for this purpose. But civilians are not allowed to own them.

Cesare Beccaria, an 18th century Italian philosopher and politician, wrote: "The laws that forbid the carrying of arms (...) disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides."

The opponents of civilian arms in Russia argue that Russians, who have a notoriously short temper, would kill each other if allowed to own weapons. But statistics disproves this argument.

The law on weapons, which allows Russians to buy long-barreled guns for self-defense, was approved nearly 15 years ago. Russians own over 5 million such guns, yet the number of crimes involving legally registered weapons has grown by only 0.5%.

Every year, some 20,000 crimes involving firearms are committed in Russia, but only a tiny number of them involve legal weapons. On average, only one out of 40,000 owners of firearms use them to commit crimes.

Global practice shows that a gun permit does not increase crime, whereas a ban on civilian arms can do this. Take the U.S. cities where civilian arms are banned - Washington, Chicago and New York. The crime rate there is the highest in the country. But the states that have allowed their residents to own firearms show a decline in crimes against the individual, such as homicides, robbery and rape.

What forces states to disarm their citizens? In some cases, it is a belated reaction to cases of the so-called unwarranted violence.  But Americans and Europeans have owned firearms for centuries, yet mass shootings have become widespread only in the past few decades. Psychologists point out that such mass shooters are mostly young people who have spent their lives watching television and playing with computers.

Mass murders can be committed without guns. Early this year, a 20-year-old man stabbed two babies and a nurse at a nursery near Brussels. In Moscow, a man stole a car and drove it onto the pavement, injuring 16 people "in social protest," as he later told the police.

Yet nobody thinks of banning knives and cars after such crimes. By the way, nearly 30,000 people were killed in car accidents last year.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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