Russian, Belarusian citizens will not be allowed to own firearms in Estonia
The coalition agreement of the Reform Party, Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) aims to prohibit citizens of Russia and Belarus from owning guns in Estonia. Incoming interior minister Lauri Läänemets said the change will take months to implement and that repealing the weapons permits of other unfriendly people should also be considered.
"The weapons permits of citizens of the Russian Federation and Belarus will be repealed and new permits will not be issued," the coalition agreement's chapter on broad-based national defense reads.
This has not previously been a known topic of coalition talks.
Läänemets: Ban will likely enter into force later in the year
Lauri Läänemets, head of SDE and Estonia's incoming interior minister, told ERR on Friday that in addition to repealing the gun permits of Russian and Belarusian citizens, those of everyone who have expressed hostility toward Estonia and Ukraine should be looked at.
"Because there are bound to be people with Estonian citizenship who could sport anti-Estonian or anti-Ukrainian views and ideas not compatible with the security situation today. It means they need to be addressed," he found.
Asked about a possible deadline, Läänemets said that because legislation needs to be amended, it will take months to enter the decision into force.
The future interior minister emphasized the need to involve agencies. "I believe this goes beyond the political decision to how it will eventually be executed. The agencies in charge of the field must come up with recommendations, which politicians will need to heed. Otherwise, we will once again end up with a law that cannot be immediately executed and run into trouble," he said.
Idea proposed three weeks after the start of the war in Ukraine
The Estonian Association of Gun Owners in early March proposed an amendment to the Weapons Act according to which firearms and ammunition could only be owned and handled by Estonian, EU and NATO citizens in Estonia. The association found that the weapons permits of foreigners with Russian citizenship or that of any of its allied states living in Estonia or those who have the right to live in Estonia should be immediately revoked.
In a letter to the interior minister, the gun owners' association pointed out that Estonia had 1,300 Russian citizens with a weapons permit and registered firearm(s).
Harrys Puusepp, bureau chief for the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS), said that the gun owners' proposal was worth discussing, while the opinions of representatives of political parties differed at the time.
Then Minister of the Interior Kristjan Jaani (Center) said that security threats should be handled on a case-by-case basis, which sentiment was echoed by Center's Riigikogu whip Jaanus Karilaid.
Conservative People's Party (EKRE) MP Anti Poolamets said that EKRE believes Russian citizens' weapons permits should be repealed.
Isamaa MP Tarmo Kruusimäe said that Estonia lacks the capacity for the interior minister's vision of a case-by-case approach to gun owners.
Social Democratic Party (SDE) leader Lauri Läänemets told ERR that any decision to repeal gun permits should be based on loyalty to Estonia and not citizenship.
The Reform Party did not voice a clear stance in March.
The current rules state people who have committed crimes cannot own a weapon until their criminal record has been reset.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski