I went to Zbroya Gun Day on May 14th with a libertarian friend of mine from Kyiv.
Zbroya is Ukraine’s only association of gun owners. It formed in October 2009 after a long bureaucratic process during which the founder, George Uchaikyn, obtained permission from the first deputies of Ukraine’s Army, Police and Justice Department. (more info here)
My friend Vlad and I walked through a park to reach the lodge, unsure of what to expect. We found tables and food and live rock music. The event was very well organized.
All those participating in the shooting portion were broken into three groups which rotated between pistol, shotgun and rifle ranges. A lady followed each group and recorded scores. I wish I’d realized from the beginning that I was being graded.
As is the case with similar events I’ve attended in the U.S. the staff emphasized safety. Each rotation began with a block of instruction geared toward beginners. At the pistol range, we didn’t even load the weapon. We only fired it.
I expected to do best at the rifle range. Even though they were Mosin bolt-action rifles, I thought my experience with M16s and M4s would translate. However my best rotation was the trap range. I hit six out of ten.
After the shooting portion of the event, everyone made a determined move to the food. The staff tallied the scores and Gregory, the founder of Zbroya, thanked sponsors and participants, and announced the winner. The highest post total was a hundred sixty something. Third place was a hundred forty something. Mine was a hundred fourteen. Maybe next time.
The participants I spoke sound very similar to their American counterparts. After getting to know you, they express frustration at the legal difficulties of gun ownership, and of common people’s fear and bias against guns. They say what I’ve heard many time before, “if only people would come to our events and try it for themselves.”
From what people told me at the event, it seems no definitive gun ownership laws exist in Ukraine, at least not for normal guns. Certain types of people (journalists, politicians, hunters) are explicitly allowed pneumatic (compressed-air-powered) guns.
The confusion about laws is consistent with my experience. Over the course of my ten month stay in Ukraine, I’ve gotten completely different and diametrically opposed answers about gun laws.
I’m very happy people like George exist, who are willing to jump the considerable bureaucratic hurdles and create a organization for gun owners in Ukraine.
For any gun ownership skeptics who may be reading my blog, I would say that the idea of a well armed society might, at first glace, seem violent, but experience tells the opposite story.
Gun laws only disarm law-abiding people. The most dangerous society is one in which only criminals and government are able to exercise lethal force.