WARSAW, Poland — Scared that Russian President Vladimir Putin will eventually target them, Polish civilians, many of them women, are flocking to gun ranges so they can learn how to shoot Glocks and AK-47s.
The number of people coming to shoot guns has tripled at Strzelnica Warszawianka, a gun range and shooting school in the Polish capital Warsaw that’s tucked in a basement underneath a swimming pool, since the war erupted, one instructor told VICE World News.
“Due to Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, there are more and more people wanting to learn how to use weapons and shoot,” Marcin Chewiński said in Polish. “They’re scared for their own family and themselves. They want to learn how to use weapons because it’s unknown what will happen in Poland.”
The same is happening elsewhere in Poland. In Włocławek, a city 150 kilometres northwest of Warsaw, broadcaster TVN reported that a shooting range set up a program to teach civilians how to defend themselves after it started receiving hundreds of requests for help when Russia first invaded Ukraine in February.
Most often, people want to learn how to use AK-47 rifles—a firearm that’s banned in some countries—but smaller pistols—Glocks, Makarovs—are popular too, said Chewiński, who’s been shooting since he was a kid.
“Generally, we have the same weapons that Ukrainians or Russians have.”
Ukrainians in Poland who had never shot a gun before showed up at Strzelnica Warszawianka during the early weeks of the war so they could learn before heading out to the front line.
“We helped them learn. I hope they survive the war,” Chewiński said.
Today, many Poles are preparing for a Russian invasion because they understand Russian aggression and imperialism intimately. They and people living in nearby post-Soviet countries are worried Russia will attack them next.
In Poland, gun laws are fairly strict, so owning one isn’t easy: it takes months to go through all the prerequisite background checks, and some firearms have to be registered with police. But Chewiński said Poland’s government will likely loosen the restriction soon, which will make owning a gun easier. “Of course to access weapons you’ll have to get psychiatric clearance. You can’t just show your ID and buy a weapon,” he said.
Chewiński said all sorts of people are coming into the shooting range, with women often outnumbering men. “Women who are starting out and come to us shoot more precisely than men at the start. They’re more calm and collected,” he said.
Ania Bronowicka, 36, has been shooting at Strzelnica Warszawianka for six years. She said “lately more and more” women are showing up.
“They want to know how to shoot, you know. In case anything happens then it’s important to know how to operate weapons,” Bronowicka said. “But I think it’s also a great idea for spending free time and to meet great people.”
The centre has been so busy that Bronowicka called ahead on Wednesday to find out how busy it was. “I even asked if it’s worth coming down… It wasn’t like that. Before there was always room,” Bronowicka said.
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