During first half year Estonia has added about the amount of new weapons permit holders as totalled in 2015. Gun training sessions overflow and people wait in lines to take the exams. Lion's share of fresh applicants are office workers stirred by threat of refugees and threat of toughened Weapons Act.
Mait (31, name known to Postimees – O. K.) is among the hundreds who got their very first weapons permit within these past six months. Employed in marketing and media, he admits to be an unusual arms fan – a Tallinner and with no prior experience.
And yet, since the month of March Mait has this long-barreled hunting rifle in his cupboard, the getting of which took months of training. «Didn’t do this for security’s sake, but just because of the opportunity. The American thinking, see,» said the man.
The sight seen by Mait at the weapons exams told quite a story. As admitted by the policemen-instructors, applications have skyrocketed despite the tough requirements and hefty price. «Half had failed the weapons exam, some were there for the third time,» said Mait.
January to July, a whopping 714 people secured their initial weapons permit. Last year had 951 new weapons owners as a whole. Should the trend continue, it will be a convincing all time record. At that, the interest is equally high among citizens of Estonia, the stateless persons and aliens.
A trainer at Tondi shooting range, Tõnis Orumaa says business is booming. «A sharp rise. Used to have 15 people in a group, since January we do 30 in a group and had an extra group in February,» said Mr Orumaa.
«It skyrocketed with the torch marches (in reaction to migration by EKRE and RÜE – edit) i.e. when people got frightened by the refugees perspective – snowballing from there,» said Mr Orumaa.
A tactical Shooting Centre head, Martin Bahovski confirms: «As people watch the news from Europe with someone hacking with an ax or shooting a Kalashnikov, they connect the dots: while I have the chance, I will prepare against that.»
Among other things, clients have said they worry for their family, or live part of the year in the countryside, or that the police would be late in coming.
Additionally, the boom was triggered by Weapons Act potentially toughened as required by European Commission so self-defense weapons would be limited to one gun only.
The plan by the Estonian government flopped while succeeding in making people file for permits en masse.
Indeed, Mr Bahovski says the trainings mainly include highly educated white collar workers from programmers to mothers of four.
«All are intelligent office workers not some suspicious guys,» he said. «Estonian top specialists, entrepreneurs and law abiding people.»
As of July, there are about 68,000 registered weapons in Estonia for civilian use. This is 2,000 more than half a year ago.