Vaher: Backgrounds of all 26,000 weapons permit holders to be examined

PPA Director General Elmar Vaher.
PPA Director General Elmar Vaher. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

When a weapons permit was issued to the suspect in last weekend's deadly shooting near Lihula, only the applicant's record of punishments was examined, Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) Director General Elmar Vaher said on a Raadio Kuku broadcast on Friday.

Last weekend's shooting in Lääneranna Municipality, in which two people were killed and three injured, prompted the PPA to subject Estonia's 26,000 weapons permit holders to additional checks, daily Postimees writes.

The suspect, who had previously been punished by the courts, filed an application for a weapons permit when his punishment from 2008 had expired. According to Vaher, when a weapons permit was issued to the suspect, neither his background nor his lifestyle were looked at and he was presumed to be a "clean sheet."

"I remain of the opinion that it was possible for our employee to look at his lifestyle and not issue that weapons permit," he said. "An expunged punishment is not an obstacle to the issuance of a weapons permit, but what I can't do is look into the mind of the person who conducted the proceeding, know how they think. I can only draw my conclusions based on what I can read today."

According to the director general, when looking at the evidence or the materials contained in the file, he can say that they didn't have that place where they would have weighed whether or not to issue the permit. "We just looked at the criminal records database and we issued," he said.

The PPA has launched an investigation to examine why things happened this way.

The police chief also said that the backgrounds of all 26,000 weapons permit holders in Estonia will be examined.  He said that there were cases where psychiatrists offered a more positive assessment concerning a person's mental health than actually warranted, and that this "indeed is no news to anyone."

"The person conducting proceedings at the PPA, who will do everything within their power when it comes to an applicant's health, can only work based on the opinion of the doctor," he explained.

'Person behind the weapon'

"A weapon never discharges by itself," Vaher said. "There's a person behind the weapon. Why do people pull the trigger? Alcohol plays a very big role in that, emotions play a very big role in that, and these are things that it should be possible to explore somehow."

He said that next steps that should be considered include more efficient checks or changes to legislation.

"Up to the point that there should be a more precise set of rules regarding what a doctor will examine and what a psychiatrist will do," he added.

"Unfortunately, this tragic event has put these questions before us, and in my opinion it is right that these questions are now on the table before us," Vaher said.

A 32-year-old male shot and killed two people and injured three more in Lääneranna Municipality, near the town of Lihula, last Saturday night. The victims of the shooting were a 40-year-old man and 61-year-old woman; among the three injured were two small children.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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