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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gun Law Is A Mistake: Here's Why

President Boris Yeltsin erred Tuesday when he reacted to Russia's rising crime rate by legalizing tear-gas pistols for city dwellers and hunting rifles for farmers for use in stopping crime.

Granted, as we report in today's edition, Yeltsin has merely legalized what was already a fait accompli. Granted, tear gas pistols are used primarily for self-defense. Granted, a hunting rifle anywhere in the world also doubles as an instrument of personal protection.

But Yeltsin's actions are still a mistake for the most pragmatic of reasons: The law will only make worse the very crime rate he was hoping to lessen.

How was Yeltsin wrong? Let us count the ways:

o He has removed from the hands of the police one method of law enforcement -- control over weapons of violence. The old saying that when guns are illegal only criminals carry guns has an enforcement advantage to it. That is, when a policeman sees a citizen carrying a gun, he can assume the person is a criminal.

o The sight of a pistol in the hands of a citizen will no longer be automatic grounds for a search by police. Have you ever seen a gas pistol? They look remarkably like regular pistol. A policeman cannot know it's a gas pistol without stopping the citizen, examining the pistol and the license.

o Crime will become more violent. A gas pistol can be used in a crime; so may a hunting rifle in the country.

By loosening regulation of these weapons, Yeltsin guarantees that they will be used more freely.

o He has set a precedent for further deregulation of such weapons. After all, the argument for permitting citizens to carry tear gas pistols is not that different from allowing real pistols. We're now one step closer to that argument.

Yeltsin's reaction is understandable. Crime is sharply on the rise in Russia, and citizens have begun to lose faith in the state's ability to protect them.

But arming the public against crime only breeds crime -- and more violent crime. Fight rising crime by hiring more policemen and creating more sensible sentencing.

The spiral of death and violence in the United States that results from handguns is lesson enough for Russia. The United States has a peculiar problem in its love affair with guns -- namely that the country's constitution explicitly names bearing weapons as a right.

Russia should not constrain its lessons to the economic successes of the West. Learn too, Russia, from the West's mistakes.