Not all the news out of the Soviet Union is bad.
The word from Red Square is that the Russian people can now purchase guns as easily as Americans, and hopefully there will be as many shootouts there as there are here.
Fyodor Dostievsky, president of the National Russian Roulette Cooperative (the equivalent of our National Rifle Association), is touring the United States as a guest of the Ricochet Rifle Clubs of America.
I met him on a rifle range in Virginia. He told me, "Guns don't kill commies. People kill commies."
"Right you are," I said. "Is the U.S.S.R.'s great interest in guns due to perestroika?"
"It didn't hurt. Russians never dreamed that when democracy came Gorbachev would throw in guns as a bonus. We even had a shooting in front of Lenin's tomb the other day."
"Did anyone get hurt?"
"Not really. Most Soviet gun owners still can't aim straight."
"Do you believe that this incident will bring about anti-gun legislation in the U.S.S.R.?"
"It can't because ownership of guns is part of the Soviet constitution."
"Who says so?" I asked.
"Karl Marx. It's in 'Das Kapital.' The Politburo won't enact any law that prevents the secret police from bearing arms."
"Come to think of it, I remember reading that. Are you meeting with many gun lovers in this country?"
"All I can. The National Rifle Association members believe the only thing that can save our country is an armed population. The NRA has been very kind. Their people have offered us Charlton Heston to do our TV commercials."
"Is there any resistance to weapon ownership in the U.S.S.R.?"
"There is some among the bourgeoisie wimps who have no use for hunting and target practice. But we're fighting back. The NRA is teaching us how to give funds to the Kremlin politicians so that the U.S.S.R. will keep all its gun laws in place. I was amazed to see what the NRA is able to do with a U.S. congressman for a few thousand dollars."
"Russians can learn a lot from Americans about how to buy legislators," I said. "Do you plan to acquire any guns during your visit?"
"Yes. I want to take back as many as possible. The ethnic minorities are going to need guns if they ever hope to settle their language differences."
I said, "We have a saying in the United States: 'If it wasn't for democracy you couldn't have guns. And if it wasn't for guns you couldn't get rid of the opposition.' "
"That's exactly the way the National Russian Roulette Cooperative feels about it. We dream of someday producing enough automatic weapons to protect every man, woman and child in the Soviet Union. At the same time we have to have tougher laws for our criminals."
"Fyodor, people purchase guns out of fear, and Russians are as frightened as anybody. That's why your drive for members will not fail."
"It's true. For 60 years we lived in fear of the secret police and the Politburo. Now we are afraid of our economic system. Soviets must have guns under their pillows if they ever hope to get anything to eat."
"Can you do it?"
"Why not? At least it's a shot in the dark."