A proposal recognizing constitutional guarantees on the right to self-defense was tentatively approved in Kyiv on Wednesday. 

The measure, the Law on the Right to Civilian Firearms (№ 5708), had been introduced to the Verkhovna Rada – the Ukrainian parliament – last June but languished in the body without any action. However, as threats of a Russian invasion seem to not just be threats, the Rada approved the bill this week 267 to 4 with 87 members abstaining or not voting. In the body, 226 votes are needed to pass legislation. 

The bill recognizes the right of Ukrainian citizens to own and carry firearms for self-defense, establishes guidelines for the consumer production, acquisition, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition while also allowing for the temporary import of guns and ammo for the commercial market. 

Currently, the sale of most handguns and select-fire weapons are off limits to members of the public, with exceptions for government officials and former law enforcement, but 2018 figures point to at least 892,854 registered rifles and shotguns in the public's hands. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that gun sales are brisk in the country's firearm stores. 

Further, there is no shortage of better gear out there, with an estimated 3-to-5 million guns circulating off the books. Meanwhile, a 2021 report held that authorities in the country recently came across "5,000 hand grenades, 20 MANPADS, and 900 rocket-propelled grenade launchers," outside of government control in just a three-year period. In a sort of reverse "buyback" with the public, officials estimated that at least 300,000 small arms and light weapons were looted or lost between 2013 and 2015. 

The gun bill is set for rapid approval, with the Rada voting on Wednesday 276-6 to speed up the time before the draft law can be voted on for a second time. 

At the same time, the National Police has ordered the issuance of weapons from government arsenals to veterans and retired members of the internal security forces who are seeking them.

In weeks past, volunteer members of Ukraine's Territorial Defence Force have made headlines for training with plywood AK mock-ups rather than actual firearms.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday tweeted, "We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities."

He followed that up with, "We will lift sanctions on all citizens of Ukraine who are ready to defend our country as part of territorial defense with weapons in hands."

Banner image: Chris Eger/Guns.com

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