Maria, who or what got you started to become a gun right activist?
I have a very simple story. My father is a hunter and since my early childhood he has taught me and my sister how to shoot. I fired my first gun at the age of 8. Then I became interested in sports shooting (especially practical shooting). And now I am not only an IPSC shooter, but I am also a range officer of such sports shooting confederations as IPSC and IDPA.
Do you have gun rights associations in your country? Do you work for them, together with them or on your own? Please tell us how and why.
Yes, we have. I am the Chairman of the largest gun rights organization today in Russia – „The Right to Bear Arms.“ We have more than 5,000 members all over Russia. “The Right to Bear Arms” was founded in 2010. It is the non-profit organization uniting gun owners of the Russian Federation and people interested in the right of civilian ownership of arms for the protection of themselves and their families.
Honorary members of the organization include deputies of the Russian Parliament (such as the First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Senator Alexander Torshin), show business stars, bloggers, actors, journalists, public authorities and many others. “The Right to Bear Arms” is a member of the “International Association for the Protection of Civilian Rights” (IAPCAR) Our partners are similar organizations defending civil gun rights in such countries as Estonia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Israel, Czech Republic and the United States.
The main goal of “The Right to Bear Arms” is to create or improve gun and self-defense laws within the Russian Federation. Representatives of the organization are included in the military-industrial expert group on the enhancement of state regulation of the gun within the Government of the Russian Federation, under the direction of the First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin. The organization holds meetings, demonstrations and discussions and promotes its ideas in the mass media.
What are your personal biggest successes for the gun lobby?
Thanks to the hard work of each member of The Right to Bear Arms, we enjoyed our biggest success in 2013. In cooperation with the Government of the Russian Federation, we passed the “Castle Doctrine.” This allows civilians the right to defend themselves in their homes.
In your experience, how do your colleagues or your friends view your firearms related activities?
People have different positions on this issue but mostly they are pro-guns and pro-self-defense. There’s an old Russian saying, “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” So it shouldn’t be surprising that my circle of friends share my outlook on life. But if you look at official Russian statistics, you see that only 44% of the Russian population agrees that more gun owners are needed. We’re 7% away from a new milestone!
How big is the share of female gun owners in your country? In your opinion, has this share increased or decreased in the last 5 years?
Not too big at all, unfortunately. We do not have a clear national statistics, but for example, only 3% of our members are women. In the shooting federations and sports shooting clubs of Russia, women make up 3% to 5% of all members. But it really increased in the last 5 years. I am sure the the numbers of female and male gun owners depend directly of the information that people can get from different media sources or friends.
Unfortunately in Russia gun advertising laws are very strict. So there is a lack of information about guns and self defense. According to the statistics of The All-Russian Governmental Center for the Research of Public Opinion (ВЦИОМ) not more than 33,5% of the population of Russia knows that owning certain types of guns is allowed in our country. We also see a direct relationship between the information that citizens have and their attitude to guns with the increasing number of legal guns in Russia. The more facts they have – the more positive is their view of our position.
What are the reasons females own guns in your country?
Self-defense is in first place. (We unfortunately have the highest crime level in all of Europe.) Second place is that women enjoy sport shooting. Finally, increasingly popular among women is practical shooting.
UN and EU target the protection of women this year. Both approve more burdens for gun ownership to prevent violent persons from keeping guns. On the other hand these burdens may also prevent law abiding persons of gun ownership. How would you – as a woman – solve this problem?
I know the statistics. And I know that the owners of the legal guns rarely commit crimes. So I’m sure that there should not be stricter laws on gun ownership.
The big problem that I see today is the complexities that arise in transporting weapons to foreign countries. Globalization of markets and travel is moving faster than gun laws in individual countries. It is very important for people to be able to participate in international competitions with their personal guns. Restrictions on this practice – particularly between Europe and Russia – need to be eliminated. In some countries, such as Estonia and Latvia, this problem is solved and you can travel between these countries with your gun without the need to issue additional documents. But this remains a major problem in Russia. In order to travel to Europe with a personal weapon you are confronted with a mountain of paperwork and complex procedures. I would like to simplify these procedures, perhaps instituting a common licence for all European countries and Russia.
If you had three wishes, what would you want regarding gun rights?
1: To increase the number of gun owners in Russia, because I want to live in a safer society. In a moment of crisis, even if I do not have a gun, someone who does could defend me.
2: To decrease the bureaucratic difficulties in bearing arms. Some background checks are needed (criminal, medical), but all of our current procedures are so complex that they compromise public and family safety.
3: To pass the Castle Doctrine in Europe, to better enable home self-defense. Many people resist owning a gun in Europe to avoid the risk of going to prison simply for defending their home and family. The Castle Doctrine is the first step toward giving individuals the right for real self-defense at home.
The interviewed Maria Butina is chairman of “The Right to Bear Arms”.
You may contact or follow her: http://mariabutina.ru/english/ or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mvbutina
The interviewer Katja Triebel is the EU coordinator of the GRA (German Rifle Associaton) and member of the Firearms United Team. You may contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/katja.triebel.1
Interview between our partners All4Shooters and Maria Butina: Gun Rights for the Russian people!
Background story by “The New Republic”: The Rise of Russia’s Gun Nuts
More about the mission and functioning of the Organization: All-Russian public organization «THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS»
P.S. If you do have a female gun rights activist in your country, please connect her with Katja Triebel