Ministry wants to allow one gun only for self defence

Liis Velsker
, reporter
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Till this day, Estonia features no limits on owning guns to protect oneself and assets. Now, interior ministry is preparing a bill prescribing one firearm only for personal safety – a pistol or revolver.

«The more so-called standing weapons in civilian use the bigger the risk of these being lost, stolen and ending up in illegal arms trafficking,» said interior ministry law and order and criminal policy head Veiko Kommusaar.

Gun owners say limits on number equals a disproportionate prejudice of fundamental rights.

Talking to Postimees, a man owning two guns and asking for anonymity said that while the bill included some relatively reasonable ideas for amendment the limiting of guns for self defence has not been sufficiently substantiated, the more so that a weapons permit needs to be secured for acquiring a gun anyway. He said it would get weirder still if limits would expand to hunters who need to use various types of guns.

Interior ministry assured us the bill would not extend to sports and hunting guns ownership, while they deem limits on self defence weapon as substantiated. «The interior ministry is of the opinion that one’s person and assets cannot be defended from several firearms at a time, thus the prescribed limit,» said Mr Kommusaar.

At that, the requirement to substantiate the need for the gun while applying for weapons permit will be abolished. «Often, the reasons given are not relevant and these people are told no. Here the right of discretion is resource-consuming for the officials and unpleasant for applicants. People are convinced that as the law currently lays no limits then an administrative body ought to automatically accept rifles for self defence in a one-room flat in an apartment block of a densely populated area,» said Mr Kommusaar to cite a problem.

Mr Kommusaar went on to name other EU member states that have limited gun ownership. In Sweden, for instance, an individual needs to have belonged to a sports organisation or hunting society for a minimum of six months before acquiring the right to apply for weapons permit. In Finland, guns are not allowed to protect self and assets, only for sports and hunting. In Holland, Belgium and Romania there is also no right to buy a gun for self defence.

A letter of explanation to the Weapons Act amendment bill states lots of owners acquire several of said category guns rather out of interest towards guns and not due to the need. For instance, as at October 1st there were 465 people owning three or more guns, including one with 19 guns while citing protection as reason.

Interior ministry data says Estonia has about 28,000 gun owners with approximately 66,000 guns in limited civilian use.

The amendment at hand would concern 2,645 gun owners with two or more acquired for safety reasons. The new law would require that they transfer the superfluous guns at time appointed or hand them to police and border guard board.

«As the law enters into force, the surplus guns for protection of self and assets. This will only need to be done before applying for new weapons permit happening every five years,» said Mr Kommusaar.

An aim of the bill would be reducing the chances of the guns being stolen. Over these past five years in Estonia, 42 guns have been stolen and 626 lost.