Sunday 17 January 2021, 04:25

Ukrainian Institute
of Research of Extremism

Civilian weapons: myths and facts (announcement of the research)


A significant level of distrust of the population to the state’s ability to protect, stimulate to other security sources and tools. Already today, almost half the population admitted such phenomenon as lynching.

In the research of UIRE “Civilian weapons in Ukraine: myths and facts” are brought up the issues such as:

-         Refutation of myths and facts.

-         The real situation on the amount of weapons across population, registered and illegal.

-         Changes in public opinion during 2012-2015 according free arms sale.

-         Legal aspects of registration and possession of firearms in Ukraine.

International experience of legalization and use of civilian weapons in the world.

кількість зброї по регіонах


According to the UN in 2015 in the world there are 800 millions firearms. Small Arms Survey even in 2009 said, that there are at least 875 millions weapons. This is 40% more then cars in the world. Only 25% of the weapons existed in military organizations (army, police).

Most murders in the world (three-quarters) are committed with firearms.

American researches showed that for 50 years in the US happened more massacres than in any other country. In a country where there are the largest number of firearms across the population, die each year from gunshot wounds almost 30,000 Americans and every day  270 Americans become victims of firearms.

In Brazil every year die from 45,360 people (2000) to 56,337 people (2012). Casualty rate in 2004-2007 in this country is comparable with the number killed immediately in 62 military conflicts, including, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine, Sudan and Colombia.

In the EU countries observed relatively low interest of citizens to arms, every nine out of ten people do not have and do not plan to have weapons for self-defense.

In France, one of the highest rate of weapons per 100 people 31.2, but 90% of permits granted for possession of weapons at home, only 10% of permits concerns the right to bear arms.

Country Murders rate indexper 100 000 people
  2000 2005 2010 2012
Great Britain 1002 / 1,7 896 / 1,5 753 / 1,2 653 / 1(2011)
Moldova 433 / 10,5 296 / 7,9 267 / 7,5 229 / 6,5
Germany 1 015 / 1,2 869 / 1 690 / 0,8 662 / 0,8(2011)
Russia - 16617 / 11,6(2008) 14574 / 10,1 13120 / 9,2
USA 15 586 / 5,5 16 740 / 5,6 14 722 / 4,2 14 827 / 4,7
Ukraine 3 618 / 7,6 (2003) 3025 / 6,4 1988 / 4,3 -



Ukraine had the lowest index of murders in the CIS to 2013 and to subsequent external aggression .

According to official figures (MIA) in Ukraine there are about 800 thousands units of smoothbore and rifled weapons. At the same time officials of Interior Ministry claimed, that the number of weapons in official property exceeds 1 million.

Even more difficult is situation in the market of illegal weapons, according to various experts from 4.5 to 6 millions.

In addition, statistics of the Ministry of Interior suggest (in 2012-2014) acute increase in of crimes (almost 3 times) committed by firearms.

As for public support of free-market firearms, the vast majority of respondents opposed the poll regardless of the time (from two-thirds to almost 90%)

However, the paradox is that most people (50%) said they would used weapons, if there is danger to life or the life of loved ones.


кількість зброї

Myth and stereotypes according weapon


 Myths and stereotypes   In fact
Ukrainians don’t have legal weapons, the sale should be allowed, because  bandits have it and decent citizens – no. As of 2015, in Ukraine registered more than 1 million of civilian weapons, according to official data, which you can buy and register much easier than in other countries.
Most citizens in the EU have weapons, wear it in public places and used for self-defense. In EU countries, nine out of ten people do not have and do not plan to have a civil weapons. Almost 85% of the available weapons are used for hunting and sports.
  The more weapons the citizens have, the less murders and crimes committed In the UK, Australia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, China, Japan, Chile there are little weapons in population, but the index of murders per 100 000 people is much smaller, than where weapons are many, particularly in the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Yemen, Philippines
Most citizens in the EU have weapons, wear it in public places and used for self-defense. In EU countries, nine out of ten people do not have and do not plan to have a civil weapons. Almost 85% of the available weapons are used for hunting and sports.
In the USA are the largest level of civilian weapons in the world, citizens feel safe, but criminals are scared and gradually become kind members of the society  Indeed, the biggest number of civilian weapons. In addition, the world biggest number of massacres in the past 50 years. Shoot in schools, kindergartens, cinemas, supermarkets, with the reason or just of boredom. Every year die from gunshot wounds nearly 30 000 people, every day  270 Americans become victims of firearms. President Barack Obama believes that a civilized country, the United States, in terms of control over the civilian arms “lost common sense.”
In Norway a lot of people get a license for self-defense. Peculiarities of north Norway and Svalbard allow to get civil weapons for self-defense against animals. However, those who first arrived in the country, warned: you can defend yourself only in case of attack, but  not kill.It needs to scare the animals by shots into the ground only when all possibilities are exhausted to kill. In Norway, even police are deprived of firearms license, not to mention average citizens. Most weapons are for hunting and sport, which is transported discharged in a special safe.
Switzerland has the  highest rate of gun ownership in Europe that way citizens are protected and feel safe.  Switzerland has the highest level of army weapon ownership that is in storage. The percentage of civilian weapon for self-defense 7%. Army weapon extensively used for suicide (first in Europe). Thus, in 2009 was recorded 1,105 suicides (murders 20 times less). Scientists from Bern confirmed the dependence of weapons number and its accessibility to suicides number.
In Lithuania is allowed to have weapons for self-defense and that way the level of crime became much lower. Lithuania like Romania have  the lowest rate of civilian weapons in the EU  0.7 units per 100 people. At that the murders index per 100,000 people is in Lithuania several times above all EU countries.
Moldova reduced the level of crimes after adoption of law in 1995 that allows carrying of weapons and self-defense.  In 2011, according to a UN survey, Moldova had the highest (after Russia) indicator of murders per 100 000 people in Eastern Europe. Ukraine from 2000 to 2013 had better index then Moldova. After Moldovan police have made the adoption of other legislation that greatly restricts the right to carry and self-defense
There are a lot of weapons in Canada which can be used for self-defense In Canada is provided liability for wearing in public places of empty bottles of beer, the more carrying of weapons, including the cold, traumatic. Gas and stun guns can be used only for self-defense against the animals, in any case, not against people.
In Australia, after the ban firearms in 1996 significantly increased crime level. Civilian weapons in Australia is not prohibited. It is adopted strict legislation, which regulate and control weapons traffic. It is prohibited self-defense and weapons-bearing in public places, storage, hunting and sporting weapons use. Ten years after the reform, the number of murders with firearms decreased by 59%. 65% reduced the number of suicides. Before the events in Port Arthur (1996) for 10 years in Australia was recorded 11 high-profile massacres, after law adoption next 10 years no any massacres.
In Poland, people can buy a firearm (gun) and get license for self-defense for quiet evening strolls. It’s can be possible in terms of1) the list of facts that indicate a real threat for life or health of the applicant;2) a list of the police divisions or procurator’s offices, where are reported cases of threats to life or health (dates, numbers of the cases, investigation procedure and copies of decisions made by the law enforcement agencies). 
In the USA, the Czech Republic or Latvia one can easily kill the attacker or robber with legal weapons. The license for the storage and self-defense is not the same as right to kill. The Court will consider the level of self-defense, the most verdicts will have guilty character, because the main purpose of weapons – prevent, scare, stop the attack, not kill.
 An example from real life in Canada:man with a gun (unregistered,as it later turned out the attacker is a reconvicted felon) set upon citizen.Citizen reacted against, tried to take away the gun, but the bullet wounded a citizen. Wounded citizen tried to catch up and apprehend the attacker. Around were witnesses. Citizen acted correctly, and if he had been armed with a gun, it would be detained or killed recidivist.



The citizen was convicted for “aggression and provocation of adelinquent” for a minimum period. Witnesses confirmed that the person did not attempt to flee, call police, and holler for help. The resistance can lead to murder, including passers-by. If the victims of the attack would have legal gun, the maximum term would be: 1. The illegal use of weapon in public places. 2. attempted murder or murder.
 In the Czech Republic combatants of neo-Nazi organization committed an assault uponstreet walkers.  Public person, known dissident, came to the defense of victims as a result of a scuffle with a knife fatally shot one of the attackers. So indifferent citizen saved the lives of innocent victims.   Dissident after a long trial was convicted, given that he personally threatened no one, he was able to call the police, but do not lynch. Given the resonance of the case, only the Czech President could subsequently influence the outcome of the case by signing of amnesty.
In the USA immigrant from the former Soviet Union acquired Parabellum and officially registered it in the police. One night he heard, that someone break out doors in his house. Approaching the door, he realized that it’s robber (as it turned out later). Loading a gun, emigrant shot into the robber when he opened the door. Then he called to police, gave honest testimony, and signed the protocol. At the bar to immigrant were put question whether he tried to call the police; open the window and ask for help to passers-by; barricade the door; scare the robber; make a warning shot. All answers were negative, and therefore, to great surprise of emigrant, he was convicted to a substantial term of imprisonment for excess of necessary self-defense.
How to protect yourself by gas weapons in Latvia? Make shots from close range and then fled as soon as possible so as not to poison gas and until attacker regains consciousness. According to Latvian law, after shots it is necessary come forward and find out his condition; if he is injured, then the medical help and call the police. If you do not provide assistance and police call, the police will be looking for victims of the attack as a crime.
Wealthy people who are realized in life and have experience in the use of arms, wont   exceed the required level of self-defense. In the Czech Republic, during the celebration of the birthday of the former Prime Minister, two oligarchs quarreled, who gave more money for elections campaign. One of them jerk out the pistol and shot the other, regardless of previous experience in intelligence agency, the existence of hundreds profitable businesses, along with young and pregnant wife. He sees the unborn child at liberty only when child will be 15 years old.




1. Legalisation of fire weapons is not just a technical approval by a state of possession of weapons by its citizens. It is a complicated process, which requires accounting for variety of components: from the sanction of the public opinion to the capacity of the state to execute real control over circulation of weapons and to secure a proper level of safety for its citizens.

Being a regulator of social relations, a law plays a significant role in choosing a strategy for public safety. Today, the objective of a state, if it attempts to eliminate threats of creating alternative safety fields, is to facilitate centripetal trends by systematising its regulatory legal environment and, undoubtedly, its law enforcement practices.

It is the more so, because paternalistic values still remain strong within the society, despite of the credibility crisis, especially, in the sphere of safety, where hopes are largely rested on state authorities.

2. In Ukraine, civilian weapons is legalised, and every citizen has the right to purchase them to defend themselves and their property in case of danger.

A lot of Ukrainian citizens hold discussions on the necessity to legalise weapons in the wrong belief that they are prohibited to be bought and possessed. Today, only military weapons (like anywhere else in the world) and short-barrelled fire weapons are under a ban. Other types of weapons are available for buying and, according to the current laws (the Constitution of Ukraine and the special regulation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs), may be legally used to defend life or property. It should be noted here that the laws are rather liberal and contain a smaller number of requirements or procedures, which are at the same time less costly than the similar procedures and permits in most countries of the world.

The procedure does not contain any special requirements for buying certain types of weapons; the theoretical part of training, which refers to possession and use of civilian weapons, only takes one day, while in many countries, to buy a particular weapon and to obtain a licence, one must be a member of a sports or a hunting club, regularly participate in competitions, demonstrate knowledge of the respective laws during tests and high shooting results at the firing ground. Some countries ban traumatic weapons, others ban gas spray weapons or electric shockers; there are other bans on certain types of smoothbore and rifled weapons or strict requirements and tests for those who wish to buy them. In Ukraine, there is no such number of restrictions and strict responsibility for infringements.

3. To determine the number of registered weapons possessed by the population is rather problematic.

According to the data of the Civil Security Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, natural persons possess about 800 thousand units of fire weapons. At the same time, representatives of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs say that the population holds 992 thousand units of rifled weapons and 835 thousand units of smoothbore weapons.

These discrepancies suggest possible problems in systematising the data on legal weapons, which, in its turn, does not only prove the necessity to strengthen control over circulation of weapons, but also the threats that will emerge in case the legal market for fire weapons increases, from systematic ballistic expertise for criminal investigation purposes to creation of ungrounded suspicions for weapon owners themselves.

4. There is a consensus of opinion among most researchers that the number of illegal weapons in Ukraine is much greater than the number of legal ones.

According to different estimates, the firearm possession rate in Ukraine is 11 to 14 units of illegal weapons per 100 people, compared with 1.8 units of registered weapons (according to the data of the Civil Security Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs).

The presence of such a number of weapons will only stimulate the “black” market, because even if we assume that most of the weapons are possessed by people, which stand far away from the criminal world, this will all the same result in criminal groups’ “drawing” these weapons towards them. Poverty of the population will push these weapons into the market, where they will be bought up by criminal elements for a song (due to the high supply). Therefore, one way or another, the criminal world will “draw” most of the unregistered weapons, due to centripetal trends and low prices.

This brings up an issue of the need of their systematic expropriation, buy-out and partial legalisation (hunting weapons).

5. The presence of a significant arsenal of weapons possessed by the population brings up an issue of the limits of their safe use and the understanding of the limits of self-defence, in particular, because despite of how efficient the reforms in the law enforcement system are, one will have to stand face to face with a criminal during the first minutes of a crime against them.

In this view, the most important thing is to understand that one should realise responsibility for their action and their own rights. Particularly, what is meant here is the understanding of a clear boundary between justifiable defence and a criminal offence. In this context, both the state and the society should systematise the required court rulings and the hierarchisation of human rights.

In our opinion, study of self-defence as a phenomenon and limits of justifiable defence should be included in the educational programmes of secondary and higher educational institutions. One should not only understand that they may be brought to responsibility for certain offences, to realise punishability of illegal actions, but also that if necessary, they may defend themselves without bearing any responsibility, which suggests the right to make a stand against illegal actions.

Along with education, the key issues associated with limits and conditions of justifiable defence should also be systematised in regulatory legal acts. In particular, we mean such acts, which would establish clear limits of self-defence and protection of private property. Without adopting such regulations, the problem of the presence or absence of weapons in people’s possession will not matter, for there will be no clear limits of using legal self-defence instruments.

6. The proposed draft law on civilian weapons in Ukraine, which has won the required number of votes as a petition to the President of Ukraine, does not meet the legal standards of most member countries of the European Union.

The draft law on civilian weapons widens the range of weapons, bates age requirements for weapon owners and introduces sales of fire short-barrelled weapons, which may be carried in public places for self-defence purposes without any proper ground for such necessity. Justifiable defence does not suggest responsibility for severity of an assailant’s injuries, which means that any hostile actions or illegal entries into the owner’s area may permit free employment of weapons, including a murder, without fear to bear responsibility.

According to the European standards, the minimum weapon possession age must be 18 years (while the Ukrainian draft law provides for 16 years for certain types of weapons); possession of hunting or sports weapons must be accompanied with memberships in the respective clubs, where a citizen must gain the required knowledge and skills. In no case these weapons may be used for self-defence purposes. To possess fire short-barrelled weapons (in the countries, where it is allowed), a clear explanation of the need to buy them is required, i.e. an actual confirmation by facts, for example, by initiated criminal matters and evidence of absence of proper protection by law enforcement authorities. All countries provide for strict control over employment of weapons; therefore, any improper and excessive use of weapons, even against an assailant, is strictly punished.

7. The experience of North and South America gives the following evidence:

  • The high level of weapon employments kills, the distribution and wide use of weapons results in the great number of crimes (the USA, Mexico, the Caribbean Area, Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil). At the same time, these countries show a rather high rate of in voluntary mans laughters (children kill their parents; policemen kill children with toy guns etc.). The society becomes overwhelmed with fear; some districts of large cities function according to their own criminal rules and become dangerous to citizens and policemen.
  • The permit to carry and employ weapons for self-defence purposes does not lead to a decrease in the rate of murders and the number of criminal offences. Neither Columbia, nor Venezuela, not even the USA has reached the European safety rates. Moreover, all the countries of these regions continually take measures aimed at increasing control over and restriction of access to civilian weapons. Columbia introduces months of bans on carrying weapons (with the rate of murders being decreased during these periods);Brazil and Mexico organise campaigns for voluntary delivery of weapons in exchange for compensations etc.
  • The countries with the high crime level do not agitate their citizens for armed resistance to criminals, which leads to highly probably deaths of victims and possible injuries among accidental passers-by. Instead, they recommend complete acceptance of a criminal’s will and complete reckoning on the assistance of the law enforcement authorities, which can save the victim’s life and the lives of the passers-by. Employment of weapons is only permitted in cases of illegal entries into private areas, with the simultaneous compliance with the non-excessive level of self-defence.
  1. The USA is a country, where the population possesses the greatest number of civilian weapons and where most of the states permit to buy fire weapons, including short-barrelled weapons, carry them in public places and employ for self-defence purposes. However, as a lot of American experts and the authorities recognise, the situation with civilian weapons is unsatisfactory. Mass shooting, a significant number of murders and wounds, including with employment of legally bought weapons, result in fierce debates on strengthening control over and restriction of citizens’ access to weapons.

The distribution of weapons in the USA had a historic context of fighting for independence; at that time, in order to provide for the maximum resistance to the empire, the country fixed the right for carrying weapons, as opposed to the British model. Today, this atavism is backed by the weapon lobby, which earns billions of dollars by trading people’s lives. Despite of the freedom of carrying weapons, majority of American citizens supports strengthening control over weapons and demands taking decisive actions aimed at enhancing safety of children, pupils and students, who often become victims of senseless assaults by psychopaths.

At the same time, self-defence and employment of weapons are to a certain degree restricted in a number of the states; it is very often that a victim of an assault becomes imprisoned, because courts decide that the level of self-defence is excessive.

Therefore, to believe that access to weapons is equal to their free use is a myth originated from Hollywood films and having nothing to do with the American reality. Is it worth while taking the USA laws as a standard for the domestic law on weapons? Do we have similar history, culture of dealing with weapons and mentality? Given the difference in the economic potential, the living standards and the efficiency of the law enforcement authorities, how comparable can negative consequences of unexacting introduction in Ukraine of America’s worst examples of circulation of civilian weapons be, especially, given the fact that Ukraine has declared its European integration course and will all the same have to harmonise its own laws with the European standards?

  1. The experience of African countries proves the mutual dependence of the number criminal offences on the existence of free access to and distribution of weapons. The worst situation is in South Africa, where the high rate of distribution of weapons among the population has not been enabling to reduce the crime rate for many years. Schools fenced with steel wire, teachers and pupils carrying guns in their hands have not become a preventive measure for bandits. On the contrary, the country has the highest murder rate per 100,000 people in the region. However, in Morocco, where strict weapon laws are in effect and the citizens have actually no access to weapons, nor wish to possess them, the rate of murders is low.

10. The experience of Asia demonstrates irregularity of weapon distribution in this part of the world. If in Japan, China, Malaysia and South Korea, weapons are minimally accessed by citizens, carrying weapons and self-defence are actually prohibited and the rates of murders retain low, then in other Asian countries, the situation is reversed. The wide distribution of weapons in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Yemen automatically facilitates increasing murder rates. In the case of Yemen, which occupied the second place, following the USA, in terms of the number of civilian weapons per capita, represents a prime example. The civil war resulted in the destruction of the statehood, with every ethnic group and tribe, being armed, initiated military actions at once. After a short period of time, the authorities lost their impact on the most areas; the terrorists began seizing public buildings and establishing their power in certain areas. Is it possible to imagine simultaneous emergence of several dozens of armed powerhouses in a state that only permits its law enforcement agencies to carry weapons? It is only possible in case of a foreign aggression and without such fractionation of armed groups.

  1. The experience of Australia is recognised as the most successful solvation of the problem of high-profile unmotivated murders and establishment of efficient control over civilian weapons for the purpose of preventing their improper use. The country did not ban weapon possession, but regulated the process of obtaining and proper use of weapons; they prohibited certain dangerous types of weapons, which can easily be employed for attacks, introduced the procedure for integrity tests for citizens. At the same time, the anti-weapon campaign and the ideology of peace and non-violence at the national level facilitated the decrease in the people’s interest towards civilian weapons. The current top position of the country, which was formerly known for its weapon-related problems, in the safety ratings and the murder rate per 100,000 people is a consequence of this policy.
  2. The post-Soviet countries, which are not members of the European Union, apply similar approaches to settle the issue of legalisation and control over civilian weapons. Their regulatory legal acts are based on the Soviet system, which did not provide for free possession, carrying and employment of weapons by citizens. Until recently, the Russian Federation, Moldova and Kazakhstan retained the highest murder rates per 100,000 people, while Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia demonstrated lower rates. Among the peculiarities and trends of further development of weapon-related legislation, we can distinguish free circulation, its negative consequences and the further complete ban on traumatic weapons in Kazakhstan, which proved worthlessness of the hopes that average people’s possession of weapons can combat crime.

Moldova is going through controversial processes; the country is actually in the vanguard of law liberalisation. It is the only country of the former Soviet Union, where free carrying of short-barrelled and smoothbore weapons were allowed for a long time, as well as employment of other types of weapons for self-defence purposes. However, the results of free circulation of weapons did not solve the problem of crime; later, each subsequent version of the law strengthened control and led to restrictions of buying and using civilian weapons, amidst the insignificant number of weapons possessed by the population. The Russian Federation is among the countries that eased, at least partially, its laws and permitted to carry legal weapons for self-defence purposes. It is not known how this will impact the general crime level, as the novation only became effective last year.

For the post-Soviet countries, it is more optimal to use the “do not harm” principle. These countries have had no tradition of distribution of weapons, and their rates of using weapons for committing murders and other offences remain relatively low. Under these conditions, introduction of free liberal laws has certain risks, which need to be determined beforehand in view of the international experience.

  1. The European Unionhas the world’s best safety rates and the most systematic control over the use of civilian weapons after their legalisation. The procedures provide for distinct purpose for a particular type of weapons, legalisation, registration, inspections of the use or proper storage, transportation etc. The EU member countries demonstrate low numbers of civilian weapons possessed by the population, which directly depends on the tradition, or its absence, of hunting and sports achievements.

Self-defence is restricted by laws. In majority of the countries, self-defence in public places is prohibited and has numerous restrictions at home.

What is the secret of the low rate of self-defence weapon distribution, given prosperity of the considerable part of the EU citizens? The secret is that a victim of an assault very often risks to be imprisoned, as courts tend to interpret employment of weapons against an assailant as excessive self-defence. There must be explicit evidence of exhausting other possibilities of defence, such as calling the police, applying for other people’s help, barricading, giving valuable things to an assailant voluntarily. The only significant reason for employment of weapons is a threat to life. In this case, the following algorithm of actions is deemed desirable: demonstration of a weapon, which must intimidate an assailant; shooting into the air or the ground as a warning; shooting at an assailant into the limbs (hands, legs), which does not carry out a threat to life; provision of professional aid to an injured assailant before the ambulance arrives. In case all these requirements are not satisfied, a victim is at risk of being imprisoned for excessive self-defence.

The major factor of people’s safety is the ability of the law enforcement agencies to take all proper measures aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against citizens. Only in specific cases, according to the explicit procedures, a citizen acquires the right for self-defence; the number of such cases is insignificant if compared with the number of population and does not have a considerable impact on the national crime level.

14. The overwhelming majority of Ukrainian citizens, for the reason of the high poverty rate, are not able to legally buy fire weapons.

But people with high incomes obtain much greater possibilities. This will stimulate them to form private legal groups covered by security structures, where every member will have the right to employ fire weapons. This will not only result in the loss of centripetal trends in the society, but will also aggravate conflicts between corporations and between corporations and the state.

What is meant here is that the possession of short-barrelled weapons by a citizen, at an individual level, facilitates his/her safety. It is a theory, because employment of weapons in a conflict requires training and readiness. These are the qualities that an assailant has, but an average Ukrainian may not.

However, introduction of free sales of firearms today, when the overwhelming majority of the society is at the edge of poverty, will result in emergence of social threats, for criminals will either be ready to attack a person with weapons and act more aggressively or become re-orientated to people with low incomes, children and pensioners, who will potentially not possess weapons.