The Ministry of the Interior has rejected calls from a firearms lobby group in Estonia to forbid gun ownership by Russian and Belarusian citizens resident in Estonia. The ministry argues that nationality cannot be used as a basis to issue, or not issue firearms licenses.
Veiko Kommusaar, undersecretary for internal security, law enforcement and migration policy at the ministry said: "All law-abiding people in Estonia have equal rights. The Weapons Act is based primarily on a person-based approach," referring to the primary relevant piece of legislation which the Estonian gun owners' association (Eesti Relvaomanike Liit) wanted to amend, in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"When issuing a weapons permit for the first time, and also when extending the validity of a permit, potential security risks arising in relation to the person are thoroughly assessed and considered," he said, adding that the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) had carried out these tasks effectively.
Kommusaar added that the Weapons Act already provides for the revocation of a firearms license if there is reasonable suspicion that the holder could present a security threat.
Kommusaar noted that in any case all weapons holders who could reasonably be under suspicion, or have been under suspicion in the past, of presenting a potential security threat are already under surveillance, conducted by both the PPA and the Internal Security Service (ISS).
Kommussaar added that: "In the course of the surveillance, the potential threat to Estonian security posed by those weapons license holders will promptly be identified and the lifestyle and behavior of those individuals that may endanger the safety of others will be comprehensively assessed. Given today's political situation, we are convinced about the need to mitigate internal security risks to our country."
In addition to restricting firearms ownership to Estonian citizens and those of EU and NATO member states, the association's proposal also called for increasing the ammunition allowance for Estonian citizens. to 1,000 rounds per weapon.
Kommussaar said the same principle applied as with restricting gun ownership – i.e. that this could not be done on the basis solely of nationality – adding that the increase in itself was not justifiable.
He said: "1,000 rounds of ammunition for each firearm is too much from a security point of view. Given that we have owners of guns who have multiple firearms to protect themselves and their property with, the amount of ammunition stored at home might increase unreasonably. In some cases, we also could not support ammunition 'depots', because they can pose a threat to the individual, his family and neighbors."
Over 25,000 people in Estonia have weapons licenses. Of these, 627 are reportedly citizens of the Russian Federation.
Editor: Andrew Whyte