In case you don’t know, I run the Independence Institute, Colorado’s force for limited government (check us out at ThinkFreedom.org).
I get to meet with my counterparts around the country and the world to share best practices and issues. It’s one of the best parts of the job.
Two years ago, I was eager to meet again with my European colleagues, this time in Kiev. Among the agenda items was the Russian threat. COVID-19 postponed that trip. So, I was looking forward to it this year.
Needless to say, we did not meet in Kiev.
Thanks to the Atlas Network, the incredible host organization that connects and promotes liberty groups around the globe, our conference was rerouted to Warsaw, Poland, where I am writing this.
It is hard to fathom that more than 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced by the Russian invasion. That’s almost a third of the entire population.
Imagine 110 million Americans displaced by war. Seriously, take a moment and try to imagine it without your mind wandering to some science-fiction Hollywood destruction movie to make it unreal enough for your brain to accept.
Beyond just strategizing about policy, this gathering in Warsaw is acting as a collecting point for first aid supplies to be sent into Ukraine. This is the first time I traveled to Europe with an extra suitcase packed with hundreds of military-grade tourniquets.
My other suitcase had enough spare space for stuffed toys for kids in refugee centers around the city. Warsaw is housing at least 200,000 of the some 1.3 million Ukrainians who made it to Poland.
What I also should have brought for delivery to Ukrainians was guns. But toting a third suitcase jammed with Glocks and AR-15s through DIA seemed, well, impolitic, even though I have TSA pre-check.
The guns wouldn’t be donated to the army. Ukrainian troops have enough small personal arms. It’s the civilians who want the guns.
Just 2% of adult Ukrainians owned guns prior to the Russian invasion. Unfortunately, regulations in Ukraine did not allow for private ownership of guns unless for hunting purposes.
Thus, according to Maryan Zablotsky, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, Russian forces quickly captured parts of Ukraine over armless and defenseless people. Cities like Irpin and Bucha became scenes of horrible massacres. More than 90% of the civilians were killed with bullets, not bombs.
Zablotsky tells me Ukrainians are overwhelmingly in favor of the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. Ukrainians are now allowed to make private gun purchases. Territorial defense units were formed by local communities and were handed out arms by the military.
Zablotsky is steering a movement to procure guns for Ukrainian civilians to make his country a safer place. They believe that every Ukrainian owning a firearm, and trained how to use it, is the best form of protection from any foreign invasion.
As Japanese Admiral Yamamoto (perhaps apocryphal) said when declining to invade America, there would “be a rifle behind every blade of grass.”
New legislation is being developed by Ukrainian parliament to make gun ownership rights permanent, lasting after they expel their invaders. Beyond deterring Putin from ever returning, they want the personal safety that comes with gun ownership.
Zablotsky said something that would get him canceled in America, “We admire US gun culture.”
Digest that. Ukraine admires our gun culture.
The gun culture that is ridiculed and shamed by all the pillars of American elite influence – education, media and Hollywood – is the culture envied by Ukrainians to deter and defend from aggressors, murders and rapists.
Through the “Ukrainian Arsenal of Liberty,” Ukrainians hope to search for in-kind donations of guns from American gun owners of arms and ammunition. Zablotsky says they will first share donated guns to civilian victims of abuse and rape in cities like Irpin.
And what will anti-gun nuts say about this? Wouldn’t they love Americans voluntarily giving away their guns? They’d love it, until they realize we’d be exporting our freedom-insuring, invasion-deterring gun culture as well.
Don’t put your AR-15 in the box with your old underwear for the Goodwill just yet. There is no easy way to get a gun to a Ukrainian under current American regulations, but Zablotsky is flying to Washington in hopes to figure it out fast.
I pray he finds Biden’s government less intractable than the Russians in the east of his country.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute in Denver and hosts “The Devil’s Advocate with Jon Caldara” on Colorado Public Television Channel 12. His column appears Sundays in Colorado Politics.