MOSCOW—President Vladimir Putin immediately ordered an overhaul of laws allowing civilians access to semi-automatic weapons after the latest tragic example of Russia’s outbreak of U.S.-style school shootings.
At least nine people were killed after an attack using a semi-automatic shotgun in the city of Kazan on Monday. Children—who have become accustomed to deadly ‘Columbiner’ rampages across Russia over the last ten years—were so terrified that they leaped from classroom windows to escape the shooting.
Horrifying video circulating on social media shows students plummeting from third-floor windows. Local outlets reported that at least two students died from the fall. At least seven students and two school staffers were killed in total. The suspect, identified as Ilnaz Galyaviyev, 19, was arrested at the scene.
The alleged shooter posted a selfie on Telegram before the massacre, posing in front of a mirror wearing a blood-red face mask and an armored vest with pockets loaded and zipped. On May 6, he posted, “I will kill a huge number of biological garbage.” It is not yet clear if the attacker’s social media profiles were linked to the dystopian online world of Russian Columbine school shooting fans known as Columbiners.
It was supposed to be a day of celebration at school #175 in the semi-autonomous republic of Tatarstan in southern Russia. The kids were dressed up in white shirts and preparing to mark Victory Day, remembering the veterans of World War II.
The weapon used in the shooting—a Hatsan Escort semi-automatic shotgun—was manufactured by the same Turkish company that made the pump-action shotgun used to kill 21 students during the Kerch Polytechnic College massacre in Crimea in 2018.
The Kremlin said it would move to introduce further restrictions on gun ownership, in a country where the rules are already much tighter than the U.S.
“The president gave an order to urgently work out a new provision concerning the types of weapons that can be in civilian hands, taking into account the weapon [used today],” said Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
Russians own more than 20 million guns, under permits for hunting and sport. Weapons with magazines that have more than ten cartridges or fire bursts of bullets are already outlawed. In order to be granted a permit, citizens must obtain a mental health certificate from a medical professional.
The Russian parliament has already considered a law designed to punish doctors for misdiagnosing patients or giving firearms permits to people with mental health issues. The trouble is, you can also buy a psychologist's medical certificate for less than $20 online.
Alexander Verkhovsky, head of SOVA Center—which monitors radical youth groups—told The Daily Beast that his organization has tracked several social media groups created by Russian teens devoted to fetishizing the Columbine high school massacre.
“Russian Columbiners are just people haters. They are not politically motivated,” he said.
Whatever their motivation, their actions have ended the lives of dozens of young people across Russia.
On October 17, 2018, an 18-year old college student, Vladislav Roslyakov, killed 21 and injured 61 people at school in Crimea. Last year, another teenager, 18-year-old Danila Monakhov, killed seven before committing suicide in the city of Nizhny Novgorod. Before embarking on his rampage, Monakhov posted on social media, "The day of resurrection is coming soon.” The shooter listed his birthday as the same day of the Columbine massacre: April 20, 1999.
Heartbroken families affected by this latest attack demanded to know why the school had such poor security. Officials explained that there are at least 40,000 schools in Russia, and that it would be impossible to provide armed security to each school.
By one account, the alleged shooter wanted to exact revenge on a former teacher: “She told him he would fail in high school, that he had to leave after the 9th grade, which he did,” one peer told a Russian radio station, adding that the suspect was a quiet student and did not have many friends.
Verkhovsky explained that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Kazan suspect had been egged on in Russian Colombiner chatrooms. “I think the Kerch shooter, who killed more than 20 people, impresses them,” he said.