Government approves bill to strip third country nationals' gun ownership
The Government approved Wednesday legislative amendments which will invalidate weapons permits granted to citizens of third countries. The law change is likely to effect a little over 1,300 people, mostly citizens of the Russian Federation and Belarus who are resident in Estonia, and does not apply to European Union citizens nor those of most NATO states.
Commenting on the amendment, Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) that it provides an additional solution in ensuring security and public order.
He said: "Today, we cannot risk people who are citizens of any hostile foreign country having weapons permits and owning weapons here."
"Due to ideology or civic loyalty, in some situations they may feel that they have to take up arms here in order to protect the interests of their country of origin, so we are eliminating such risks via this law," Läänemets went on, according to an interior ministry press release.
A period of grace has been put in for handing in the firearms themselves.
"When the law comes into effect, the gun permits of citizens of non-EU and non-NATO countries living here will be valid for one year, and then the gun owner has another year to transfer his or her firearm. The weapon must be retained in the hands of Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) during the year specified for alienation. If the gun owner does not dispose of the gun himself within the prescribed period, the police must expropriate it at the average market price," he continued.
The change affects about 1,325 people who between them own a total of about 3,080 weapons.
New permit issuance will halt immediately the law enters into force, while for so-called gray passport holders, meaning individuals, mostly originally from the Russian Federation, who have neither Russian nor Estonian citizenship but reside in Estonia and are issued the passport for travel purposes, will be able to retain their permits until their expiry date, after which they will not be renewed.
Restrictions are also imposed on members of any management body, or the owners and beneficiaries of legal entities, operating in firearms-related activities.
The amendments will change the Weapons Act and must pass a Riigikogu vote and presidential assent to enter into law.
Deputy Secretary General Veiko Kommusaar from the interior ministry urged firearms owners who will be affected by the law change to act soon to sell their weapons and surrender their licenses, so as to avoid a situation where they end up owning a firearm illegally; the authorities can also dispose of firearms not in a saleable condition, he said.
Assuming the bill passes its three Riigikogu readings it will enter into force in the new year, the ministry says.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Ministry of the Interior