Proposals for amending the Firearms Act are being finalised: Significant restrictions proposed on the availability of handguns
The first round of proposals for tightening up Finland’s firearms legislation has almost been completed. It is proposed that significant restrictions be imposed on the availability of handguns (pistol, small-calibre pistol, revolver and small-calibre revolver). In future, only persons who have reached the age of 20 and practised shooting, as a member of a shooting club, actively for at least two years could be granted a handgun permit.
When applying for a permit, the applicant should always present a certificate of shooting practice issued by a firearms trainer. It is proposed that the Firearms Act be amended by adding to it new provisions on firearms trainers. The trainer should be of 20 years of age, a holder of a permit entitling him or her to possess a firearm and a member of a shooting club. In addition, the trainer should have undergone training which meets the requirements set by the Ministry of the Interior.
According to the proposals, the first possession permit for a handgun would always be granted for a fixed term, not exceeding five years, however. If the person in question acquires new handguns during this first term, the period of validity of the possession permits for all handguns expires when the term comes to an end.
After the first fixed-term permit the permit holder could be granted a possession permit for his or her handgun that would be valid until further notice. The permit holder should, however, submit to the licensing authority every five years a certificate of active target shooting or practice issued by a firearms trainer, a certificate of active cave hunting or hunting by using restraining traps issued by a game management association, or a reliable account of using a firearm for a show, filming or a corresponding presentation.
In future, an acquisition permit for a hunting weapon could be granted to persons who have reached the age of 18 years. With the consent of the parents or guardians, persons of the age of 15 could be granted a parallel permit for a shotgun, combination weapon, rifle or small-calibre rifle for the purpose of hunting, target shooting or target practice. The parents or guardians in turn could be granted a permit for the acquisition and possession of a firearm, provided that the child is under 18 years of age and partakes in hunting or shooting as a hobby. The permit would remain valid until the holder of the parallel permit reaches the age of 19 years.
State of health and behaviour to be assessed more carefully
It is proposed that a new provision on suitability testing be added to the Firearms Act. An acquisition permit applicant would be obliged to undergo a suitability test held by the licensing authority which would establish the applicant’s personal suitability for the possession of a firearm. The test would be similar to that of the Defence Forces.
It is also proposed that the Police Act be amended in conjunction with the reform of the Firearms Act so that the police would have more scope for obtaining information on the state of health, intoxicant abuse and violent behaviour of the applicant for a firearm licence. In addition, the police should have the right to obtain information on whether the applicant has undergone the compulsory military service and on the assessment of the applicant’s suitability for military service.
It is also proposed that doctors and other healthcare professionals be given a right under law to notify the police of a person who may, on the basis of his or her state of health, be considered unsuitable for possessing a firearm.
Proposals for amending the Firearms Act to be sent out for a wide consultation
In September 2008, the Ministry of the Interior set up a two-phase project to prepare the reform of firearms legislation and certain statutes related to it. The first round of proposals for amendments has almost been completed and the proposals are about to be sent out for a wide consultation. The aim is to submit the Government proposal for amending the Firearms Act to Parliament in June.
For more information on the project in Finnish or Swedish, please visit www.intermin.fi/suomi/aselaki. You can comment on the proposals for amendments at www.otakantaa.fi (only available in Finnish and Swedish).
For further information, please contact Antti Pelttari, State Secretary, tel. +358 50 357 7194, Kristiina Kokko, Special Adviser, tel. +358 50 342 3654, Jouni Laiho, Director of the Lottery and Firearms Unit, tel. +358 9 1604 2849, or Mika Lehtonen, Project Manager, tel. +358 9 1604 2353