Alternate Reality: Praise for Ukraine’s Armed Civilians, Gun Restrictions at Home
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dominated the news cycle over the last two weeks while also generating some head-spinning responses from traditionally staunch gun control advocates. Just perusing the latest headlines, political speeches, and the avalanche of responses to both can leave you reeling.
On the one hand, there’s been near-wild applause from Democrats and Republicans alike for Ukraine’s resistance to the invasion, which included such actions as creating that nation’s equivalent of the Second Amendment. The move legally affirms the rights of Ukrainians to not only use firearms in defense of the nation but their right to own and carry guns for their own self-defense.
That act was quickly followed by the dissemination of some 18,000 AKs to determined civilians in Kyiv. Then the world watched and nearly universally cheered – Putin maybe not so much – as ordinary Ukrainian citizens learned not only how to make Molotov cocktails but also how to use them as effective fighting tools.
Even notoriously anti-gun political activist groups in America known for hard-line stances that no civilian should or would ever have a rational reason to own an AR-15 or AK47 were jumping on the bandwagon.
It almost seemed like the time could be ripe for an honest discussion about the value of ordinary citizens who were not simply repressed from firearms ownership but instead taught the values of being a responsible gun owner. Civilians, yes, but ones who both possessed the power to exercise gun rights and were actually encouraged to become familiar with firearms.
The concept isn’t exactly new in the region. Finland, which has a long history of resisting Russian invasions and one of the world's highest gun ownership rates, actively trains its general population, including a short period of military instruction for young men followed by supplementary training for years after. It’s an observation that even an outlet like The Atlantic, no particular friend to the pro-2A movement, was able to recognize and explore briefly just after the current Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Then, during President Biden’s State of the Union address this week, which was itself riddled with false claims about firearms in the U.S., the show of solidarity for the Ukrainian government, military, and now increasing armed general population was all but universal.
Yet, in the same address, the well-tuned piano of support for Ukrainians’ right to keep and bear arms broke into the traditional chords of restrictions and limitations for law-abiding American gun owners here at home.
The mid-speech shift was hardly unexpected from a staunch gun control politician like Biden, who has turned making references to his work crafting the 1994 “Assault Weapons” Ban and off-the-cuff false claims about everything from “ghost guns” to civilian ownership of cannons a press-room standard. Neither was the avalanche of retweets, shares, and reposts that followed from other anti-gun activists.
In fact, amid a real-world demonstration of the importance of firearms rights in Ukraine – which, again, was inspired to create its own version of the Second Amendment – the urgency to move in the opposite direction here in the states seemed to be rising. Just days after Putin’s invasion and the president’s speech, Democratic senators pushed Biden to get their gun control agenda done faster with executive action.
“Because we are at a logjam in the United States Senate, it means that the burden on the administration to step up and take action is great,” said Sen Chris Murphy, D-Conn., on Wednesday. He took special aim at a gun control favorite, so-called “ghost guns,” as manufactured, untraceable firearms that pose a special threat. It’s also a common false claim repeated by the president, even though it goes against his own DOJ’s finds.
Alas, as Biden and other gun control advocates praised arming civilians on one side of the Atlantic – actively helping in the process with more arms on the way – the rhetoric about “assault weapon” bans, conjured fears over “ghost guns,” registrations, and a slurry of other restrictions seemed to continue with an unaware, zombie-like shuffle here. All in all, 2022 is proving to be a confusing year if you’re trying to follow gun control advocates on the national and global stage.
On the flip side of the coin – for those at home keeping score – as the Ukrainian government further opened gun ownership as a pathway to self-defense for its citizens, Putin’s Russia will be adding additional restrictions to gun ownership in 2022, raising the age for ownership to 21 and adding more license refusal criteria. Despite the number of firearms inside the country, legal civilian ownership hovers closer to 3 percent, with access already curtailed by requirements for government background checks, licensing, and federal testing restrictions.