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4 Mar, 2010 03:49

Will Russia disarm private security gunslingers?

Under a new Russian law, all security firms will have to give up the firearms they have been using over the years and no one can tell for sure if they will get them back after the announced inventory check.

The reason is simple: with about 750,000 employees, security firms in Russia have become a powerful army which, authorities say, often gets out of control.

Sometimes the guns assigned to these firms end up on the black market.

There are also numerous reports of hired guns being involved in corporate raids against business rivals, racketeering and other serious crimes.

Russian Interior Ministry Spokesman Leonid Vedenov noted that “kidnapping, murders – these crimes have been committed by security guards. Some even tried to set up eavesdropping on high-ranking government officials, ministers for example.”

Now, all guns owned by security firms will have to be handed over to local police. They will be checked and documented. Only then can they be reissued to security guards and private detectives, under stricter control by law enforcement agencies.

The measure has not been met with enthusiasm. Security firms say there’s still no firm details on the disarmament. And some see the new law as yet another bureaucratic headache.

“To get employed by a security firm, you have to have a license, but you can only get a license if you are already employed by such a company – we get absurd instructions like this all the time,” complained Vladimir Ignatov from Neva security company.

This private security firm in Southern Russia has launched a TV campaign to attract new customers. Just like the police, the "knights in shining armor" say their duty is to protect and serve – except they are up for hire.

In its TV commercial, security guards from Neva appear dressed as knights, SWAT officers and in their own company uniform.

The company has various teams of professionals, so each group has various assignments. Some serve as bodyguards, while others check perimeters and protect private property. Having a vast fleet of patrol cars, the company promises that no matter what, the rapid response team will arrive at the scene of a crime within five minutes of the alarm being raised.

Aleksandr Mazur has been working as a security guard for over a year. He says most of the time he gets call-outs from local discos, restaurants and cafeterias.

“If it is a cafe, we mostly deal with fights and unpaid bills,” said Aleksandr Mazur. “We get a call from dispatch, and we investigate the case.”

But no matter how tough things may get, Aleksandr and his brothers-in-arms could soon be confronting criminals armed with nothing but nightsticks.

With a deadline set for the end of this year, the authorities hope the reform will be efficient, making it harder for criminals to infiltrate security firms and sell their guns to crooks.

But no one knows if the legislation will be powerful enough to put an end to the dark side of the security business.