Ukrainian youth weigh the free possession of arms

In line with the ongoing legal debate over free firearm possession, students at the OSCE summer school’s ‘Constitution and the Rule of Law’ course in Shyshkin (in the Chernigiv region) tackled the question “Is the free possession of arms in Ukraine feasible?” in a series of debates organised by Democracy Reporting international (DRI) on 26 July.

We want the youth from the regions of Ukraine to share their vision on this matter, their opinions and ideas,” said Andriy Kozlov, DRI’s Senior Legal Analyst and debate moderator, in his opening remarks.

Student opinions echoed familiar arguments on both sides: advocates for the free possession of arms argued in the context of the current Russian aggression and military conflict in Eastern Ukraine. “This state of affairs causes a surge in crime and illegal trafficking in weapons on Ukraine’s territory making a discussion on the right to free possession of arms relevant”, key speaker of the “pro” team, Oleksiy Bruslyk, argued in his presentation. The team concluded that free arms possession was an effective way to protect constitutional rights.

Opponents argued that citizens could defend themselves not only with firearms, but by other legal means and non-life-threatening tools, such as calling the police, the use of airguns, or pepper sprays. This group emphasised that “granting the citizens the right to armed self-defence may lead to the radicalisation of society and an increase of criminal activities.” Oksana Kohut argued: “Such a liberalisation of the right to free possession of arms is not timely and there are no convincing reasons to support its implementation.

According to the expert jury training and assessing the participants, both teams demonstrated a high level of debate, although the jury found the free firearm proponents to be more convincing due to its better presented argumentation, interesting examples and general enthusiasm.

The expert jury consisted of: Andriy Kozlov, DRI’s Senior Legal Analyst, Vitaliy Vlasiuk, international law specialist and debates trainer, and Oleksandr Vodyannikov, National Legal Advisor at the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine.

Read more why it is not advisable to guarantee the constitutional right to posses firearms and what are the problematic aspects of the armed self-defence in Ukraine that was initiated by an e-petition to President Poroshenko and supported by an NGO “The Ukrainian Gun Owners Association” in DRI’s Briefing Paper Nr. 64. The discussion of the issue is still ongoing within the Human Rights Working Group of the Constitutional Commission.

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