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Statutes on Civilian-Use Weapons Under Review

In the wake of the attack by lone gunman at the Defense Ministry and the tragedy in Norway, Estonia is considering reviewing the country's firearms laws, which are fairly restrictive but do currently allow those with gun permits to purchase semiautomatic versions of deadly assault rifles. 

As of the end of July, there were about 58,000 guns in Estonia in civil commerce, 40,000 of which are hunting weapons. 

Gun shop proprietor and sportsman Martin Bahovski says that the semi-automatic assault rifles are primarily bought by members of the Defense League and by competitive marksmen.

"Not many of them are purchased, maybe a few dozen at most in a year, but primarily they are bought by people who know what they are buying," said Bahovski, who is the a board member of the Tactical Shooting Center. 

Kaarel Kaas of the International Defense Studies Center said he feels individuals should not be allowed to keep a copy of a Kalashnikov or M4 at home. 

He said that one option would be to allow such weapons to be owned by companies such as shooting range operators on condition that the weapons be kept in an armory on the premises when they are not being used. Individuals should be allowed to keep only handgun-type weapons at home, he said.

The Interior Ministry administers the country's list of weapons prohibited in civilian commerce. Officials stress that the Weapons Act is built around the function and purpose of use of a weapon, and say a semi-automatic weapon does not in itself bode ill. 

"We are reviewing the Weapons Act in full today and making various amendments to the law," said Priit Heinsoo, head of the law enforcement and criminal policy department of the ministry.


Kristopher Rikken

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