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15 Apr, 2014 09:33

Gun rights activists promise tough response to rejection of self-defense initiative

Gun rights activists promise tough response to rejection of self-defense initiative

A public petition asking to broaden the legislative limits of self-defense has been rejected by the Interior and Justice Ministries, but activists intend to continue the campaign and promise pickets near the government HQ and rallies across the country.

The petition entitled “My home is my fortress” has collected over 100,000 signatures of Russian citizens on a dedicated web-site which officially gave it legislative legs. If the draft was passed any action of a citizen inside his or her home against an intruder would be qualified as necessary self-defense, which, in turn, could lead to the withdrawal of murder charges or of inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Both the Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry have vetoed the draft, the mass circulation daily Izvestia reported on Tuesday quoting an unnamed source in the special federal group for dealing with public initiatives.

The group was scheduled to consider the petition at a special session on Tuesday, but without the ministries’ approval it will most likely be rejected, the source said.

However, on Tuesday afternoon the working group reported that it had approved the petition on broadening the limits of necessary self-defense, and forwarded the document to the government. “This is the first initiative of three that had gathered the necessary 100,000 signatures on the internet,” the Open Government Minister Mikhail Abyzov told the ITAR-TASS news agency.

The whole scheme was introduced in Russia in March last year. The first two petitions that got sufficient support for parliamentary hearings – one suggesting to set a price threshold for cars purchased by various state agencies, and another opposing a new law targeting internet piracy have been rejected at the very first stage.

Maria Butina, the chair of the organization that drafted the home defense bill told Izvestia that she was extremely disappointed with the “electronic democracy”, and promised more public action in order to make parliament accept the bill and pass it.

We put a huge effort in to collect the signatures, we had a website and a hotline launched for this purpose, we held various street events to inform the people on what they were offered to support. Our further actions will be extremely aggressive. We are going to launch a series of pickets near the government headquarters. If they do not heed to the people’s opinion, we would launch a series of street actions, not only in Moscow but all over Russia, in sixty or seventy regions. We are also considering a repeated placement of our petition on the government site for signature collecting – we will prove that we can do it for the second time and for the third. We will fight to the end and we will not allow them to silence the initiative,” Butina told the paper.

Some Lower House MPs also voiced support for the activists and said that they awaited the bill to be submitted. The head of the State Duma committee for public organizations, Yaroslav Nilov, said that the citizens’ support of the draft was obvious and promised to press for parliamentary hearings.

Gun rights groups estimate the number of civilian gun owners in Russia at about 5 million and the number of registered firearms at about 6.4 million, including over 600,000 non-lethal guns modified to fire special rubber bullets. The overall Russian population is over 140 million according to the 2010 official census. Pro-gun advocates also claim that the number of crimes committed with officially registered firearms is extremely low – only 142 in 2012.

Russian law does not allow civilians to carry concealed firearms, but a long gun can be purchased solely for home protection.