If You Thought Ukraine Was Going to Disarm Its Population After the War, Think Again

Ukraine civilian arms guns
Home defense in Kyiv (Bigstock)


Citizens of a country where civilian gun ownership has historically been less widespread than in the United States may also be concerned about attempts at disarmament. Weapons distributed by the [Ukraine] government are, theoretically, supposed to be returned when hostilities end. Don’t count on it.

“Ukrainians are in no hurry to return their weapons,” notes [Gergely] Hideg. “A plurality of Ukrainians (39 per cent) concur that soldiers will keep (at least some of) their firearms instead of returning them to the military after the war ends.”

Of course, even assuming their records are in order, postwar officials will face challenges proving that weapons handed to civilians were not lost in combat. There’s also the matter of battlefield pickups. That’s in addition to the many firearms privately purchased before the war and likely to be supplemented afterwards by people increasingly comfortable with their possession.

Even if, contrary to their announced attention to ease gun laws, Ukrainian officials ultimately succumb to European pressure to tighten them, they’ll face the usual uphill battle against their own people. Ukrainians are unlikely to be more willing than anybody else to surrender what they possess, or to submit to laws they’ve concluded are bad ideas. There’s also the challenge posed by human innovation.

“Improvements in technology and information sharing have transformed PMFs [privately made firearms] from crude, impractical homemade devices of limited value to most criminals into highly functional weapons that are increasingly viewed as viable substitutes for factory-built firearms, including converted firearms, ghost guns, and 3D printed weapons,” finds another December 2023 Small Arms Survey report.

The European Union also reportedly has a thriving market for “illicit firearms ammunition and other explosive munitions,” according to a third publication.

So, Ukrainians who want to own firearms for a variety of reasons after the experience of the war with Russia are almost certain to have their desires satisfied. They’ll end up armed through legal markets, the leavings of combat, or the growing and increasingly sophisticated European black market.

— J.D. Tuccille in War With Russia Teaches Ukraine To Value Private Guns

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