Amendments to the Firearms Act officially confirm the special status of reservist activities
On 19 March, Parliament adopted a government proposal to amend the Firearms Act and the Act on Voluntary National Defence. The amendments will introduce the changes required by the EU Firearms Directive into Finnish legislation. The amendments will enter into force as soon as possible.
"These amendments will ensure the security of citizens, while also enabling the continued exercise of target shooting, firearm collection and military reservist activities. A great deal of work was needed to adapt the Directive to Finnish legislation, but we now define reservist activities separately as grounds for derogation to acquire and use the necessary weapons. Voluntary national defence will now be provided with a sustainable legal framework and, by European standards, an exceptional position, as it already has in Finland" says Minister of the Interior Kai Mykkänen.
The definitions of firearms categories and the provisions concerning firearms licences were amended to comply with the Directive. The objective of the preparation of the amendments was to prevent particularly dangerous firearms and their components from falling into the wrong hands without creating undue difficulties for reservist activities, which are unique by European standards, or for other recreational firearms activities in Finland.
The amendments to the EU Firearms Directive were brought about in response to the terrorist acts committed in Central Europe in recent years in which the perpetrators used a variety of weapons including automatic firearms. Following the amendments to the Directive, certain firearms, such as semi-automatic weapons, are now classified as category A weapons, which means they are prohibited. In other words, some weapons that were formerly classified as category B weapons, which can be kept subject to authorisation, have now been moved to category A.
Category A firearms permitted in shooting training
EU Member States may choose to grant authorisation for the acquisition and possession of prohibited weapons, for example, for national defence purposes and for museums, collectors and target shooters. This option is used in the Finnish firearms legislation.
The National Defence Training Association of Finland may be granted licences for certain weapons classified in category A in the Directive, if used in shooting training that serves military preparedness. Reservist and sports-shooting organisations may also acquire category A weapons for target shooting training.
Moreover, individual reservists may be granted a licence for category A weapons that are considered essential for reservist activities, while target shooters may be granted a licence for long or short semi-automatic weapons equipped with a loading device having a high capacity. No special permits may be granted on these grounds for other very dangerous weapons, such as explosives or modified fully-automatic weapons.
Notable exceptions to the requirement for authorisation of loading devices
Loading devices with a high capacity used in semi-automatic weapons will be subject to authorisation. The effects of this change will be minimised by the fact that the authorisation does not apply to loading devices that are manufactured for any automatic firearm model which was first manufactured before 1946 and that cannot be adapted to an automatic firearm. These loading devices have been kept as mementos, and they include the loading devices for the ‘Suomi KP/-31 submachine gun’, the ‘Emma light machine gun’ and the ‘Lahti-Saloranta light machine gun’.
Nor does the need for authorisation apply to loading devices that have been rendered permanently inoperable or whose capacity has been permanently restricted. Further provisions on rendering a loading device permanently inoperable or restricting it permanently will be laid down by Ministry of the Interior decree when the Act enters into force.
The EU Firearms Directive entered into force on 13 June 2017. The President of the Republic is set to approve the national amendments relating to the EU Firearms Directive in the near future. The amendments are scheduled to enter into force as soon as possible.
Elina Rantakokko, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 611, [email protected]
Risto Lammi, Director General, tel. +358 295 488 550, [email protected]
Titta Andersson-Bohren, Special Adviser, tel. +358 50 5131 539, [email protected] (requests for interviews with Minister Mykkänen)
Correction March 21st at 1.30 pm: The text in the 7th paragraph about licences for reservists and target shooters has been clarified