Politicians join calls for tighter weapons permit checks

Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa).
Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa). Source: ERR

Leading politicians from coalition and opposition parties have joined calls to make gun control stricter in Estonia following a shooting incident Saturday night which left two dead and three, including two children, in hospital.

Speaking on ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" Monday night, justice minister Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) says the existing principal law in that sphere, the Weapons Act, grants Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) officials plenty of latitude in issuing weapons permits.

Saturday's shooter, named in the media as 32-year-old Mikk Tarraste, had a prior record following an incident in which he fired on an apartment building, but this and other considerations had not been taken into account when his current license was issued in 2017. The PPA official who gave Tarraste the license no longer works for the organization, interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) says.

Under current Estonian law, an individual may be refused a license if they have a prior penalty to their name for an offense which threatened life or well-being, or a weapons-related offense.

However, if, as was the case with Tarraste, the sentence has been served and the penalty expunged from their record, this gives effectively a clean slate and is no barrier to obtaining a permit.

Raivo Aeg says such data, when deleted from the public register, will be transferred to the archives so that the relevant agencies, including the police or security authorities, will be able to see it.

Aeg pointed out that current law actually bars the authorities from so doing however.

Another area which could have stopped the Lihula shooter from obtaining a weapons permit is that if they have a reported lifestyle which can endanger the well-being of others, Aeg said.

Tarraste's former comrades in his volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) unit have described him as aggressive and easily angered. Tarraste's behavior ultimately led to his being removed, though not until after he had found various loopholes in the law which prevented his ejection – in the event he was encouraged to resign, and did so.

Aeg also said that thorough psychiatric examinations were important, concurring with similar remarks interior minister Mart Helme made Sunday evening.

Reform MP and former interior minister Kalle Laanet said that weapons permit holders should be scrutinized more, not least since licenses are for five-year periods.

"When an individual gets a gun permit, he or she can retain it for up to five years. In the meantime, he or she does not have to take a health check-up and we don't really know what might happen in that person's head, what his or her attitudes are, or if he or she has any health issues," Laanet said. .

Jaanus Karilaid, chair of the Riigikogu's Legal Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, added that current mental health assessments may be inadequate.

"What do you do in a situation where a person's health has been assessed, but if something happens in the meantime, for example after two or three years? How do you ensure a safety net? Can we take appropriate steps to withdraw the permit?" Karilaid said.

The Weapons Act already allows for the revocation of a firearms license for a number of reasons, such as drunk driving or ongoing behavoir which endangers others.

However, Karilaid said his committee is ready to tighten the law up further where necessary.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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