A change in legislation will prevent around 1,300 Russian and Belarusian citizens resident in Estonia from owning firearms. The development primarily relates to national security requirements, Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) says.
Those affected must surrender all firearms they may own by mid-March.
Läänemets said: "In the current security situation, this measure is needed, proactively to mitigate any risks to our internal security and to public order."
"Unfortunately, in the current situation, citizens of foreign countries hostile to Estonia cannot continue to bear the right to hold a weapons permit, or a weapon, here in Estonia," he went on.
Veiko Kommusaar, the ministry's Deputy Secretary General, said: "The present-day security situation in Europe requires proactive action, which is why several amendments are being made to the firearms law.
"The most widely talked-about amendment refers to that whereby, from now on, weapons permits will only be issued to citizens of EU and NATO member states. In addition, we will add crimes to the list which result in a permanent bar on obtaining a firearms permit. This restriction will be in place regardless of nationality or other factors," he added.
While the ban mostly pertains to citizens of the Russian Federation and of Belarus, the law also catches "gray passport" holders, meaning those permanently residing in Estonia who are neither citizens of Estonia, nor of Russia nor any other state. In practice, most "gray passport" holders, so-called after the color of a travel document issued them, speak Russian as their first language.
Kommusaar added that: "The amendment also concerns persons of undetermined citizenship, for whom weapons permits issued are valid until the expiry date specified in the permit. No new permits will be issued to these people thereafter."
Shortly before its four-year term ended this week, the XIV Riigikogu adopted amendments to the Weapons Act, as presented by the Interior Minister.
The amendments both revoke weapons permits granted to citizens of non-EU and/or non-NATO states who reside in Estonia, and prevents new permits to the same people from being issued.
An estimated 1,300 citizens of the Russian Federation, Belarus, and persons of indeterminate citizenship residing in Estonia had held firearms permits up until the legislation change, owning between them just over 3,000 weapons.
The ban comes into effect when the law enters into force, on March 15.
Kommussaar advised starting the process of gun owners hit by the law selling or otherwise divesting themselves of their weapons now, rather than waiting till the last minute, adding that there was no prospect of the law changing again, even as Riigikogu elections are due to start next week.
The Riigikogu also adopted a law which will set up weapons permit applications and registers as an electronic service only, which, Minister Läänemets said, will make the process faster and more accurate than the paper and e-register hybrid that had existed up to now.
Permit applicants will still need to present in person to conduct interviews and suitability checks.
Veiko Kommusaar noted that the process of applying for or extending a permit will not change from a PPA officer's viewpoint, while the new e-register will, from March 30, require vendors to enter additional data, including the presence of night sights and silencers in weapons which they have sold, with differences in details applying to those weapons, and their owners, used for hunting purposes.
Editor: Andrew Whyte