Multiple gun ban backfires

Oliver Kund
, reporter
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Gun owners are indignant. A fresh bill would limit firearms for self defence to one forcing 2,645 people to sell the rest. Shooting sportsmen would suffer. So the working group led by interior minister yesterday decided the plan is binned. 

The likelihood of a major fight over the bill was low as safer rules were suggested for acquiring weapon permits and an old discrepancy with constitution mended.

Gun owners and shooting sportsmen say the bill would have been laudable indeed had it not involved two clauses regarding the which the views are spit by a canyon.

The first would curb private gun ownership. While any amount of firearms were allowed in Estonia for self defence, the bill said one should be the limit. And either a pistol or revolver, nothing larger.

Based on threat assessment

The amendment was based on threat assessment by Police and Border Guard Board and security police, the details of which they would not disclose while citing fear of amassment of weapons, entry into wrong hands, or getting lost. Indeed, over the past five years 626 guns have gotten lost in Estonia.   

Tactical Scooting Centre experts and opponents to the bill Tõnu Adrik and Martin Bahovski say the demand is absurd as totally ignoring the fact that one weapon isn’t enough to defend oneself in some situations. For instance, a gun worn under garments is not too effective at long range, under attack from a wild animal or in a situation of war.  

«If, for instance I go hiking and encounter a mother bear, a pocket pistol is no good. A bigger one is needed,» said Mr Bahovski, adding that the state forcing people to opt for one weapon would undermine territorial defence in war.

«Thus, if at all, the limit should be drawn at five weapons, say,» added Mr Adrik. On top of that, with forced sales the gun owners would suffer financial loss. An average gun costs upwards from €550 and may reach €1,500–2,200 for a rifle. With forced sales, this would not be earned back.

The other problem was shooting sports. Namely, the legislators said the current 1,000 cartridges per weapon at home is unreasonably much. The new ceiling would be 3,000 no matter how many guns are owned.

In practical shooting, in Estonia a hobby for nearly 700 people, one training session swallows 200–300 cartridges. An average sportsman would spend some 10,000 – 12,000 cartridges a year for training, and an equal amount for competitions. As reckoned by Mr Bahovski: should the state ban wholesale purchases, for the sportsmen the price would at least double.  

At yesterday’s meeting chaired by interior minister Hanno Pevkur, the ministry said they are willing to alleviate the clauses protested against.

«Perhaps we overdid it with many a measure. Rather boldly, it may be said that in such a form the bill will definitely not proceed,» admitted the ministry’s law and order and migration policy vice chancellor Raivo Küüt.

Tough refusal

Mr Küüt admitted there will probably be no ceiling on weapons for self defence. Even so, he thinks there should be rules regarding in which walks of life and for what reasons multiple self defence guns could be owned.

«With the current law, there have been instances with people going to get yet another licence and the police has said «no» seeing no basis. The individual has sued and been acquitted as there was no basis for refusal,» said Mr Küüt.

To the knowledge of Postimees, a reason for the limit is fear by law enforcement that the liberal law may be misused by the so-called second column – like the stateless persons.

«Our aim is to ensure security and if the threat is that persons hostile towards Estonia have a legal option to get armed we need to prevent that,» said Mr Küüt. «True, we drove the bill to the other ditch. Now we have to find the middle of the road.»

But who are the people leading the way in Estonia’s civilian gun ownership?

Talking to Postimees, Taivo (in his 50ies and name altered for security reasons9 is a father in a family in a house in a city, not a member of Defence League nor law enforcement worker. Still he owns seven registered weapons from pistols to a pump gun.

An opponents to the limit, he says one is too few. «I bought my first pistol in the 2000ies. Naturally, I was interested in going to the firing rages to practice. This being a large pistol, it was difficult to carry it with me the whole time,» recalls Taivo. «I had to buy a smaller one. But as I wanted to sell the first one to the arms store, they offered poor man’s pennies.»

The pistol stayed in the safe and soon was accompanied by longer barrels. «If war comes, I got a gun ready,» says Taivo and admits the hobby is past self defence. «True, there are for pastime. Should the state force me to sell all but one, I would have to leave Sig Sauer. This cannot be carried. Then the self defence loses its meaning.»