Interior Ministry plans to tighten weapons permit conditions

Interior minister Mart Helme (left), with PPA chief Elmar Vaher.
Interior minister Mart Helme (left), with PPA chief Elmar Vaher. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The interior ministry says it will tighten criteria for obtaining weapons permits in the aftermath of a shooting Saturday night which left two dead and three injured, including two children.

The ministry said that prior records, including whether penalties previously imposed had been enforced, and a more rigid system of psychiatric assessment, were on the table.

Interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) said Monday that the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) have met with representatives form his ministry to discuss prerequisites for obtaining a weapons permit, and, he said, had identified shortcomings here.

Helme said one of the primary objectives is to codify criteria, including past actions, which would preclude an individual from getting a weapons permit, most notable of these being keeping prior records in mind more.

"One of the biggest loopholes is that a penalty that has already been enforced is treated as if it were expunged," Helme said, according to BNS, adding that at present an individual with expunged criminal record can reapply for a weapons permit.

The PPA is also investigating how the individual got hold of a weapons license, given his prior record.

Pärnu County Court placed the suspect, named as 32-year-old Mikk Tarraste, into custody Monday evening after the shooting, which followed a road traffic accident which Tarraste had reportedly caused at a fuel station in the western Estonian town of Lihula.

According to PPA chief Elmar Vaher, the shooter had acted alone, and fired dozens of rounds from three firearms, all of them registered. The PPA found a fourth, registered weapon later, at another location, Vaher said.

Vaher said that Tarraste, who was reportedly under the influence of both alcohol and drugs at the time of the incident, has given statements to the PPA but could not comment on these further.

In a 2008 incident, Tarraste had been convicted of a weapons offense after firing on an apartment building.

State-approved list of psychiatrists needed

Tarraste's current weapons permit had been issued in 2017 and he had no extant penalties on his record, it is reported. The 2008 incident had resulted in a fine.

The key issue was: "how a weapon ended up in the hands of such a person," Helme went on, adding that regulations governing weapons licensing need tightening, with alcohol and drug addictions becoming factors too.

Deputy secretary general at the ministry Veiko Kommusaar said the process of psychiatric evaluation must also be amended, with a list of state-recognized experts being one option.

Previous offenses against life and well-being, weapons offenses, offenses against the state and "terrorist" offenses would also bar an individual from getting a weapons permit, he said, with information sharing being needed with other permit-issuing bodies.

Mart Helme expressed his regret at the Lihula shooter having received a weapons permit, adding that the individual who had issued it no longer works for the PPA.

Under the current system, weapons permit applicants can select their own medical specialist for a psychiatric assessment, something which Helme said was little more than a formality and which should be replaced by a system where family doctors referred applicants to approved psychiatrists.

A 61-year-old woman and a 40-year-old man were killed in the attack.

Elmar Vaher said that the two children injured on Saturday evening are in a stable condition in hospital.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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