November 16, 2017

Gun Control Laws in the USSR

Original Russian Language Article: 

(Research and Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Translator’s Note: Although workers may defend themselves during Revolutionary periods within history, they do so as a ‘collective’ and once the Revolution is achieved, arms are removed from within civil society. Individuals using fire-arms to defend themselves from one is merely a bourgeois deception. Whilst killing one another over stupid things, the working class is prevented from uniting and over-throwing the bourgeoisie. I have translated here, only an extract of this modern, Russian language text regarding the history of weapon ownership from 1649 until the present time (post-1991). It concludes by stating that in 2000, Russia joined the European Convention on the Control of the Acquisition and Storage of Firearms by Individuals, but since it has not been ratified by the State Duma, the convention does not yet apply. The State Duma has been ratified due to te EU, US and UK actively encouraging and supporting neo-Nazism in Eastern Ukraine, and throughout Eastern Europe as a means to encroach upon Russian sovereignty and to attack and destroy Socialism throughout the Russian sphere of influence. However, this article argues that prior to the USSR, the ownership of weaponry in feudal Russia was far more liberal. This is true, but it has to be taken into account that only the nobility could afford to own proper weaponry, and as that nobility owned all the land, controlled the legal system, police and military, a rich person could kill an ordinary person with little legal consequence, whereas if a poor person killed a rich person, the State would apply torture and public execution as a punishment. Weapon ownership in pre-Soviet Russia was a direct result of class privilege used to oppress the masses. Following the 1917 October Revolution, the Bolsheviks took steps to control weapon ownership and remove most weapons from civil society. This action was carried-out to remove any and all weaponry from the hands of counter-revolutionaries, reactionaries, class enemies and foreign enemies. A Socialist Society uses science to develop a peaceful and safe civil society for all citizens to develop their psychological and physical abilities without fear of attack, injury or death. The defence of a Socialist Society lies with the State and the properly trained and disciplined Red Army. As a Socialist State only acts in the favour of the Working Class, and given that bourgeois notions of antagonistic individualism are no longer relevant or encouraged, there is no need for Soviet citizens to be armed to defend themselves from one another (as is the case in the capitalist USA). When the people needed to defend their Socialist Society from fascist attack, the Soviet State provided weaponry for use outside the Red Army (as seen with the Partizan Movement). Although gun-control legislation developed over many decades, the August 1st, 1983 ‘Criminal Code of the RSFSR’ gives Article 218 as stating:

‘Article 218: Illegal Carrying, Keeping, Acquisition, Making, or Marketing of Weapons, Ammunition, or Explosives.

The carrying, keeping, acquisition, making, or marketing of a firearm (except a smooth-bore hunting piece), ammunition, or explosives without the respective authorisation, shall be punished by deprivation of freedom for a term of up to five years.

A person who has voluntarily surrendered a firearm, ammunition, oe explosives which he has kept without the respective authorisation shall be relieved from criminal responsibility.

The carrying, making, or marketing of daggers, Finnish daggers, or other sidearms without the respective authorisation, except for those localities where the carrying of a sidearm is an appurtenance of national costume or connected with the hunting trade, shall be punished by deprivation of freedom for a term of up to two years, or by correctional tasks for the same term (as amended 11th July, 1974 and 3rd December, 1982.’

Basic Documents on the Soviet Legal System, by WE Butler, Oceana Publications, (1983), Pages 376-377

It is interesting to note that the UK and much of Europe retains a civil society free of fire-arm ownership, but retains the problem of bourgeois oppression through governmental agency such as the police and military, etc. Even in the UK – where it is a stereo-type to assume British police are unarmed – it is more and more a common sight to see heavily armed police officers patrolling the streets as part of the dubious US ‘War on Terror’. This observation must be interpreted as a spread of the violence inherent within US capitalism.ACW 19.2.2018

Gun Control Laws in the USSR

Already in the first days of Soviet power, one of the main tasks of the new regime was the complete withdrawal of weapons from private individual ownership. On December 10th, 1918, the Council of People’s Commissars issued a decree on the surrender of all arms, in which stated:

“1. As a means to benefit the entire population, all institutions within civil society, are to hand over all the serviceable and faulty rifles, machine guns and revolvers of all types, including cartridges and ammunition of any pattern;

2. For concealment of weapons, failure to surrender or opposition to the surrender of any guilty persons will result in imprisonment for a period of from one year to ten … ”

By this decree, all previously issued weapons storage permits were declared invalid, and persons who had weapons were required to surrender them. The weapons were not confiscated from members of the RCP (B.), but not more than one rifle and one revolver per person was allowed to be owned. In this case, the weapon was assigned to a specific owner.

According to the instructions in this decree, the right to store and carry weapons was given to ordinary party members. Thus, in Soviet Russia the right to arms acquired party affiliation.

On July 28, 1920, the decree “On hunting” limited the circle of persons entitled to possession of a hunting rifle. The issuance of certificates for the right to hunt was carried out by the organs of the People’s Commissariat of Agriculture, and the registration of weapons and the registration of cartridges to it – by the NKVD. In 1922, the first Criminal Code of the Russian Federation was adopted, which criminalized (up to 1 year) the possession of firearms without proper authorization (Article 220). The duty to issue permits for the storage of weapons, including hunting, was entrusted to the NKVD.

Decree of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR of 12 December 1924 “On the procedure for the production, trade, storage, use, recording and transportation of weapons, firearms, explosive shells and explosives”, all weapons were classified and divided into categories. From then on, the object of buying and selling for ordinary citizens was limited only to smooth-bore hunting weapons. The remaining categories of weapons became the prerogative of those who were put on various types of guard duty.

Illegal possession of weapons was severely punished. From March 1933, the manufacture, storage, purchase, sale of firearms (except hunting weapons) without proper authorization was punishable by imprisonment for up to five years. In 1935, a similar punishment was imposed for the storage of bladed weapons.

At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, all citizens were invited to surrender the rifled and smoothbore firearms, as well as cold steel available for personal use to the police and local Soviets. With regards to trophy weapons seized by citizens living in the settlements liberated by the Red Army units, these were obliged to be “handed in within 24 hours to military units, NKVD organs or local authorities”. Persons who did not hand over weapons and ammunition in time were subject to criminal prosecution.

On August 17, 1953, by decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, citizens were granted the right to freely acquire hunting smooth-bore weapons. Prior to that, citizens were required to show hunting permits when buying. However, this order lasted only for a short time – less than 6 years – and by the decision of the Council of Ministers of the USSR on May 11, 1959, the free sale of hunting smooth-bore guns was canceled. Henceforth, the sale of hunting rifles could once again only be made upon presentation of membership cards of the hunters’ society.

During the same period, a draft law was planned, according to which it was intended to allow trustworthy citizens (mainly members of the CPSU and Komsomol) to acquire short-barreled firearms as their personal property. However, this law was not enacted.

In 1960, a new Criminal Code of the RSFSR was adopted. Article 218 was significantly relaxed: for illegally carrying, storing, manufacturing or selling firearms, a sentence of imprisonment of up to 2 years was determined. Storage of bladed weapons was excluded from the crime.

In 1974, Article 218 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR was again tightened (up to 5 years of imprisonment). True, a note appeared: “A person who voluntarily surrenders firearms is released from criminal liability”.