Raft of 33 amendments including on weapons permits passes Riigikogu vote ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Estonian Laws (picture is illustrative).
Estonian Laws (picture is illustrative). Source: ERR

The Riigikogu passed a set of 33 draft legislative amendments, referred to in the Estonian media as cluster law, on Monday. The amends include extensions to weapons permits which would have otherwise expired during the emergency situation arising from the coronavirus pandemic, primarily to take pressure of the police in issuing and administering processes.

The amends passed by 54 votes to 40 against, the Riigikogu says, and are all related to issues which have arisen since the emergency situation was declared on March 12.

The draft legislation seeks to amend 33 laws, which can be grouped into three main areas, BNS reports:

  1. Exceptions for various permits as well as the duration and deadlines of procedures, including those for weapons;
  2. Exceptions assigning extended competences and tasks to various agencies and people, and
  3. Amendments needed during the emergency situation but also to extend beyond that.

Amendments affect weapons permits, volunteer Defense League, the healthcare sector, judicial proceedings, local government, data processing and schools

The bill includes extending the term of validity for weapons permits and activity licenses in the same field, for those whose licenses and permits expire during the emergency situation.

"Movement of people and operation of public agencies are limited under the emergency restrictions, possibly resulting in a situation where people's weapons permits expire and applying for an extension is not possible. Acquiring a health certificate required for applying for and extending a weapons permit may also be complicated," Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) said, according to BNS.

"So as to not put people in an unfavorable situation, exceptions must be made in the terms of validity of weapons permits," he went on.

The roles of auxiliary police officers and members of the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), are to be harmonized with those of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), to better fulfil law enforcement tasks, BNS reports.

In addition, some state agencies are to be granted extra competencies and discretion for the duration of the emergency situation.

The permitted net debt of local governments and the organization of basic and high school final examinations will also be changed, as will regulations on data processing and informing the public of this.

Some amendments to continue after emergency situation ends

The amendments also include proposals which have been prompted by the emergency situation but are of a lasting nature, and are to remain in effect also under normal circumstances, i.e. once the emergency situation has been lifted.

These amendments include the right to conduct procedural acts of justice remotely.

Amends to the Aliens Act have also been proposed as extending beyond the end of the emergency situation, currently set to last into May.

Several of the amendments seek to establish temporary exceptions for extending the term of validity of various health and training certificates as well as relaxing qualification requirements, procedural requirements and deadlines in certain areas, BNS reports.

The amendments will only remain valid for the duration of the emergency situation to ensure that certain services, procedures and work are not disrupted.

"An extension must likewise be granted to health certificates as appointments with family doctors or medical professionals have at this time been reduced to a minimum," Martin Helme said.

Weapons Act amendment details

  • The bill amending the Weapons Act seeks to extend the term of validity of weapons permits, collection permits, parallel weapons permits and permits to carry as well as activity licenses issued on the basis of the Weapons Act.
  • This is due to last throughout the emergency situation and 60 days beyond this, BNS reports.
  • The 60-day period is deemed a sufficient time for the PPA to resume its regular operations, including in activities related to weapons permits, and to avoid a situation where permits and licenses expire but cannot immediately be renewed.
  • The 60-day period is deemed a sufficient time for the PPA to resume its regular operations, including in activities related to weapons permits, and to avoid a situation where permits and licenses expire but cannot immediately be renewed.
  • The PPA will continue supervision of weapon owners and activity license holders; if an individual commits an offense precluding the right to handle weapons during that time, the authority will respond to it in accordance with normal procedure.
  • The PPA will not issue a first weapons permit unless the applicant has passed the relevant examination and submits the required health certificate from their family doctor. If the latter is missing, the individual will have to wait until the end of the emergency situation.
  • Oversight of activity license owners, including weapons dealers and gunsmiths, will continue during the emergency situation. Again, their activity license swill be suspended or revoked if there are legal grounds for doing so.
  • The amendments will enter into effect on the day following their publication in the Riigi Teataja gazette.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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