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Tragedy, take two One year ago, a school shooting shook Russia, and officials vowed to take action. Now, after another shooting, almost nothing has changed.

Source: Meduza
Investigators work outside Kerch Polytechnic College. October 18, 2018
Valery Matytshin / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

This morning in Blagoveshchensk, Russia, a college student brought a shotgun to class, killed a fellow student, wounded three more, and then shot himself. One year earlier, a similar attack shook the eastern Crimean city of Kerch when student Vladislav Roslyakov used a legally purchased firearm to kill 20 people before committing suicide as well. Following the mass shooting in Kerch, Russian government officials proposed a range of legal measures aimed at preventing further tragedies. None of those measures were ultimately implemented.

Stricter gun storage laws

Two days after the Kerch attack, Russia’s National Guard proposed new, stricter firearm storage rules. The resulting bill would have dictated that any gun owner who moves to a new home should report the move within three days, enabling officials to determine whether any firearms in the home are stored safely. The reporting requirement would have applied even when a gun owner moves without changing the official registration address listed in their passport. The National Guard also suggested new rules that would make it easier to transport firearms by plane.

Results: An executive order made it easier to transport firearms by plane, but the reporting requirement for those moving guns to a new residence was removed from the order. 

Increased age requirements for gun buyers

In the past year, at least three bills have been proposed that would amend Russia’s statute on guns by increasing the age at which smooth-bore self-defense weapons and hunting weapons can be purchased in the country. Specifically, the bills aimed to move that limit from 18 years of age to 21. They were introduced in the State Duma by the following parties:

  • November 26, 2018: the parliament of Tatarstan
  • December 6, 2018: a group of federal senators
  • State Duma Vice Speaker Irina Yarovaya (promised to introduce a new bill but has not yet done so)

In response to both of the first two bills, the Russian executive branch advised the Duma that increasing the country’s gun purchasing age would “limit the labor rights of citizens between 18 and 21 years old, who would be unable to undertake labor that requires the carrying and deployment of firearms.” Executive officials also noted that the new bill would affect teenagers who take part in recreational or competitive sport shooting. Neither of the bills even passed the first of three votes required in the Duma.

Vasily Piskarev, the head of the Duma’s Security Committee, said after the shooting in Blagoveshchensk that the question of whether to raise age requirements for firearms purchases is not currently under consideration in Russia’s federal legislature.

Results: In the year following the Kerch shooting, Russia’s gun statute has not changed (with the exception of a few insignificant details). In fact, there is already a bill in play that would allow adults to lend teenagers their guns for the hunting season beginning at age 16 (16-year-olds can currently purchase firearms only in individual Russian regions).

More severe penalties for gun violations

Tatarstan’s parliament proposed raising Russia’s minimum age for gun purchases simultaneously with another measure that would have increased penalties for those caught carrying a firearm while intoxicated. The regional legislators suggested amending Russia’s Codex of Administrative Violations to rule out fines as a possible penalty for that behavior, leaving only one available punishment: firearms license cancellation for 1 – 2 years and the possible confiscation of firearms and ammunition.

Results: This bill is also dead in the water at the State Duma because the executive branch argued that fines “are a warning that prevents more serious violations in the arms trade” while license cancellation would be too harsh a penalty.

More frequent medical examinations

Following the mass shooting in Kerch, Vladimir Putin spoke at an appointment ceremony for military officers. Addressing the Russian National Guard, he said, “We must seriously increase our control in the realm of firearm sales.” A month and a half later, National Guard chief Viktor Zolotov told journalists that a packet of new measures had already been sent to the president, but what exactly those measures were is unknown to this day. Novaya Gazeta discovered that one of the proposed changes involved more frequent medical inspections for gun owners: Rather than submitting a form to confirm their good health every five years, Russians who own firearms would have been required to submit a new form every year.

Results: One year later, the Russian National Guard’s proposals still have not been publicized, let alone introduced in the State Duma as a bill. Novaya Gazeta has reported that, for now, the idea of adding more medical examinations for gun owners is off the table.

Heightened security

In November of 2018, members of Russia’s ruling United Russia party proposed a discussion on the possibility of handing all school security responsibilities over to the National Guard. That suggestion never even got as far as an official State Duma bill.

Now, after the shooting in Blagoveshchensk, Duma deputies have suggested introducing stricter requirements for private security companies. Once again, the National Guard has been asked to lead that effort.

Results: After the Kerch shooting, the Russian National Guard went as far as to conduct inspections of school security systems but no further. Those inspections typically take place at least twice a year. Now, Education Ministry officials have argued that the inspection initiative should be developed further.

Report by Mikhail Zelenskiy

Translation by Hilah Kohen

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