The world is captivated by Ukraine’s resistance to Russian invasion, especially since much of Ukraine’s resistance comes from ordinary citizens taking up arms in defense of their homeland.
Ukraine has a fighting chance in part because it has taken dramatic steps to provide its people firearms. More than 25,000 automatic rifles and 10 million rounds of ammunition have been distributed to volunteers in Kyiv.
In the United States, even supporters of draconian gun control are announcing they “stand with the brave Ukrainian people” in their armed resistance. The glaring contradiction between these positions — supporting gun confiscation one day and gun distribution the next — seemingly hasn’t dawned on many of these ideologues.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is another prime example: engaging in tyrannical gun control at home while supplying the Ukrainian resistance with machine guns, pistols, carbines, and 1.5 million rounds of ammunition. The European Union shows a similar hostility to the self-defense rights of its people, even as it gives Ukraine about half a billion dollars’ worth of “lethal aid.”
Arming average citizens hasn’t always been the Ukrainian way, either. A 2014 report noted that the country had “inherited the Soviet civilian gun control system, which provides for restrictive gun owner licensing and the registration of all firearms.” According to that report, Ukraine initially considered imposing comprehensive gun laws during the 1990s. But politicians gridlocked over “whether or not private [gun] ownership would increase crime or improve security.”
Hopefully the events of 2022 have settled that question once and for all. An individual’s natural right of self-defense applies equally to the defense of his life as to the defense of his nation — and neither individual nor nation is secure without the ability to exercise it. This should never have been a question.
As it happened, Ukraine was tragically late to expand legal protection of gun rights. Its parliament acted on an emergency basis just before Russia invaded.
Better late than never, certainly. But imagine if the people of Kyiv had been training with these weapons their whole lives. Imagine if they knew them like the back of their hands, instead of quickly learning to handle them during an invasion. Their resistance, as well as their example to the world, would be all the more powerful.
It’s also unfortunate that Ukraine’s government has left some significant restrictions on the self-defense rights of the Ukrainian people, and has only codified these rights in a statute rather than giving them full constitutional protection. In reality, the right to bear arms — in public and private — is a natural right that the Ukrainian people need no government permission to exercise. They just need the government to stay out of the way of their natural rights.
But in a time even many U.S. jurisdictions violate that natural right, it’s not surprising if other countries are confused about it.
Ukraine is certainly moving in the right direction on gun rights, something that can’t be said of the entire United States. The chairman of Ukraine’s parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, says the new law is meant “to ensure that every citizen receives the sacred right to self-defense.”
The people of Ukraine have a chance because they are armed. It’s a lesson the world should never forget.
Cody J. Wisniewski (@TheWizardofLawz) is the Director of Mountain States Legal Foundation’s Center to Keep and Bear Arms.
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