Lithuania, Beset by Crime, Grants Right to Pack Gun

By Ap | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 3, 1994 | Go to article overview

Lithuania, Beset by Crime, Grants Right to Pack Gun


Ap, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


As of Friday, Lithuanians have the right to pack a pistol as one means for protection against rising Baltic crime.

Lithuania and Estonia are now the only former Soviet republics where firearms are legal for personal protection. Latvia has taken no steps to legalize firearms.

Crime in the Baltics has skyrocketed since the three small nations won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. In Lithuania, with a population of 3.7 million, 53 murders were reported in the first quarter of 1994.

Estonia, a country of just 1.6 million people, had 50 murders so far this year and 282 in 1993, or 17 per every 100,000 residents.

That rate approaches New York's, which is about 23 murders a year per every 100,000 residents.

When the Baltics were under Soviet rule, handguns were forbidden. Stiff jail sentences and tough police practices also contributed to much lower crime rates.

Now, guns are available through the Russian armed forces. Loose security and a breakdown of command among ex-Soviet soldiers in the Baltics have enabled troops to sell their weapons to crime gangs, police say. Now the people want their own.

"This law, above all else, gives people the chance to protect themselves and their property," said Lithuanian legislator Saulius Peceliunas, who helped draft the law. It took effect Friday. …

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