MOSCOW, July 24 (RIA Novosti)
Parliament Considers Bill on Short-Barrel Firearms for Self-Defense
A group of deputies has submitted a draft law to the State Duma to allow Russians to carry short-barrel firearms with bullet cartridges for self-defense.
Under the bill, all citizens over 23 years of age who have served in the army or undergone special firearms training will be able to purchase a Russian-made rifled pistol or revolver with a muzzle energy of up to 300 joules. A gun license will be issued by the Interior Ministry. Federation Council First Deputy Speaker Alexander Torshin thinks that anyone who is sane, is not registered at a drug treatment clinic, has no unquashed convictions and has a safe place to keep the weapon will be entitled to possess it. Applicants must also undergo a mandatory course of training.
Torshin believes that the decriminalization of civilian short-barreled firearms will boost Russia’s GDP by up to a trillion rubles over the next five years.
Experts say that the number of people possessing firearms in Russia is increasing each year, with the number of weapons licenses issued almost doubling since 2000.
An expert report ordered by Torshin says that twice as many law enforcement officers are killed in Russia as in the United States each year. The report states that “this points to the need to review existing approaches to security and law enforcement.”
According to the Interior Ministry, there are over five million firearms registered for personal use in Russia, and two million gas pistols and revolvers sold.
Experts claim that the same number of firearms is unregistered. Russia ranks ninth in the world in terms of gun ownership: one in ten Russians possesses a gun, compared to nine out of ten in the United States.
Several years ago, Russia adopted a compromise solution to allow sales of gas pistols and revolvers (which are not designed to kill). But already dozens of deaths have been recorded from “non-lethal” weapons, and instances of their use run into the hundreds.
Firearms supporters claim that everything will be fine. Hardly any crimes involving smooth-bored and rifled hunting rifles are committed in Russia, so why should they appear because pistols are going on sale?
At the same time, Vladimir Pligin, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building, does not believe the open sale of pistols will lead to a reduction in crime.
“Many advocates of free trade in arms like to cite the experience of other countries, saying that the sale of weapons in shops there has resulted in a drop in the crime rate and people feel confident when they carry a Magnum or a Walther,” the deputy told Rossiiskaya Gazeta. But statistics provide no clear answer on how gun ownership influences the crime rate.
Pligin said that unlike other countries Russia has so far not experienced any mass killings on campuses or in restaurants and it must not be allowed to happen. He added that arguments against the bill would outweigh those in favor.
Tatarstan Mufti’s Main Opponent Resigns, Goes to London
Ramil Yunusov, the imam of Europe’s largest mosque the Qolsharif Mosque, located in the capital of Tatarstan, has resigned as deputy director of the Kazan Kremlin museum and left Russia, reportedly for London. He is considered the main opponent of the Mufti of Tatarstan Ildus Faizov, who has been recently attacked.
According to a source in the Kazan Kremlin museum, which includes the Qolsharif Mosque, Yunusov submitted his resignation late last week, but it is unclear if Zilya Valeyeva, the museum’s director, has accepted it.
Immediately afterward, Yunusov left the country, reportedly for London.
“His mobile phone has long been out of range,” said Rishat Khamidullin, official spokesman of the Muslim Board of Tatarstan.
He said Yunusov’s sudden departure could hinder the investigation into the attacks on Mufti Ildus Faizov and his former deputy Valiulla Yakupov on July 19. Yakupov was shot dead in the entrance hall of his apartment block and Faizov was lucky to escape alive when his car was blown up. Yunusov is a witness in the latter case.
According to Tatarstan’s Investigative Committee, they have no reasons to restrain Yunusov’s freedom of movement.
“We will question him as a witness in the case, but otherwise he is a free man and can travel abroad,” said committee spokesman Eduard Abdullin.
Yunusov’s colleagues at the museum said the trip to London had been planned long ago.
“He was planning to improve his English at courses that last from four to eight months,” said Ramil Khairutdinov, first deputy director of the Kazan Kremlin.
Yunusov’s departure attracted attention because he is one of the main ideological opponents of Mufti Faizov. The last time they clashed was in spring 2012, when the Qolsharif Mosque was turned over to the Muslim spiritual authority and Faizov planned to become its imam, citing the Charter of the Muslim Board of Tatarstan. But several hundred of Yunusov’s supporters threatened to riot, forcing the mufti to revoke his order.
Experts also say that Yunusov advocated non-traditional forms of Islam.
“He was educated in Medina in Saudi Arabia, where Wahhabism is the official religion. Yunusov was a Wahhabi,” Farid Salman, chairman of the Council of Ulemas of the Russian Association of Islamic Accord, told Izvestia.
Yunusov was also supported by Airat Shakirov, also known as Sheikh Umar, one of those arrested as a suspect in the double assassination attempt case.
“In spring Sheikh Umar brought groups of people to the Qolsharif Mosque to threaten Ildus Faizov with unrest and force him to leave Yunusov alone,” Farid Salman said.
As of July 23, the investigators have detained six people suspected of involvement in the attacks on the top spiritual leaders of Tatarstan. They are Marat Kudakayev, formerly responsible for law-enforcement at the Muslim Board of Tatarstan; Rustem Gataullin, chairman of the board of directors of hajj operator Idel Hajj; Murat Galleyev, head of the Waqf parish; and their presumed accomplices Airat Shakirov, Aizat Gainutdinov and Uzbek national Abdunozim Ataboyev.
Recycling Bin Program Suffers Setback
The city’s new recycling program continues to look for a sympathetic public. The city of Moscow launched a pilot program for waste collection separation last February by equipping several parks with eco-friendly bins. The new bins provide people with an opportunity to separate glass, metal and paper refuse. So far, these bins are stuffed mostly with indiscriminate garbage that no one removes.
The Moscow Department for Environmental Management and Protection installed recycling bins and containers in 17 protected nature areas at a cost of 23 million rubles. The program was meant to pave the way for recycling all over Moscow. Park administrations blame a lack of awareness for the public’s uncooperative disposal habits. Despite this, Moscow officials pledge to continue equipping city parks with recycling waste bins.
Environmentalists see the problem as the lack of a clear waste disposal policy. According to Anastasia Suslina of The Friends of Losiny Ostrov Park, people are willing to sort their trash, but they are disappointed by the way the program is being implemented. “Currently, sorted trash ends up in a general heap anyway and is then simply carted off to a landfill. They failed to think it through before launching this program,” she said.
Maria Belous, administrator at Pro Otkhody, an ecological coalition group, says the burden of organizing recycling bins has been placed on the park administrations. They are supposed to find contractors for separated waste removal services. However, our parks operate on a minimal budget and this is a luxury they cannot afford.
Nevertheless, polls indicate that Moscow residents are willing to sort their waste, provided there is a convenient system. But so far the program has not been well promoted and most people know little about it.
However, the Department for Environmental Management and Protection is promising to correct the situation. “Gradually this whole process will be worked out. We have been negotiating with waste processors. Soon we’ll launch cooperative projects with public and youth organizations,” a spokesman for the department’s press service said.
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