Police have been increasingly responding to reports of people carrying weapons only to discover it has been an airgun or toy. Northern Prefect officer Kristian Jaani, said introducing separate marking for airguns would help as would identifying those who buy them.
Last year, police responded 1,454 times to reports of someone having a gun, whether it was a firearm, starter pistol or a gun-like object.
"When we respond there is a risk that someone starts shooting. Fortunately, these challenges were mostly associated with toy guns, airguns, starter pistols or a lighter, but the caseload shows that Estonia should think about labelling airguns and similar weapons to make the real threats clearly identifiable," Jaani told ERR.
The police prefect mentioned the example of Great Britain, where air guns are two-colored and easily identifiable at a distance from real weapons.
Another measure could be to make a register of weapons-like items and the people who buy them.
"If you need to identify a person to buy a lottery ticket, you could also do so with airguns, which could be linked to a personal number," said Jaani. Speaking on the same subject, he told ETV's morning broadcast show "Terevision" tying a "toy gun" buyer to a specific person would take away anonymity.
Jaani could not explain why ordinary people buy a starter pistols. "If a person feels his or her property, health or life is at risk, then there is a gun law in Estonia and it is possible to buy a weapon. But, Estonia is not so insecure that everyone should think that it's time to buy a real firearm," he said.
He said it is understandable to buy a weapon for a sport or as a hobby, but he does not understand people who buy an airgun or pretend weapon out of interest and then later come into contact with the police in a situation where, for example, they are drunk.
Currently there are 27,317 valid weapons permits in Estonia. If the shotgun can only be used to shoot cartridges or ammunition intended to give a pyrotechnic signal, it is not subject to authorization and the police do not possess the statistics.
If the shotgun can be used to shoot gas cartridges, permission must be sought to own the weapon. The Police Weapons Register has data on 506 gas weapons.
Editor: Helen Wright