Bill proposed to grant Defense League members right to use tasers, shotguns

Hunters in high visibility jackets.
Hunters in high visibility jackets. Source: Estonian Hunters Society

The Ministry of Defense has submitted a draft for approval which would grant to hunters who are also members of the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) the right to use their hunting weapons while in service. The bill would also permit Defense League personnel on guard and law enforcement duties to use electric shock weapons, including tasers.

"The draft law amending the Estonian Defense League Act (known in Estonian as KaLS) and the National Coat of Arms Act (RVaS) permits the use of a hunting weapon in fulfilling Defense League service obligations, in a similar way to that of a weapon purchased for self-defense, with the aim of encouraging hunters to join the organization," the draft's explanatory memorandum reads.

The amendment also broadens the scope of weapons permissible during Defense League service. This would allow, among other things, the use of tasers and would align the rights of the Defense League security units with those of other national security agencies, such as the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and the prison service, who are already authorized to use tasers.

These organizations have proven the effectiveness of tasers and other electric shock non-lethal weapons, and have been legally authorized to do so for some time, the memorandum goes on.

In addition, the bill, if it enters into law, would grant the head of a structural unit authorized by the Defense League commander the right to allow an active member to hold a permit to acquire a personal firearm; 

Other amendments would grant an additional holiday of up to ten calendar days to supporting and active members who are involved in the educational activities of the Defense League's youth wings, in order to ensure equal treatment.

The Defense League has two youth bodies, Noored kotkad (boys) and Kodutütred (girls).

The Defense League would also gain the right to use the state coat of arms on its own documents and publications, under the terms of the bill.

The bill would also simplify Defense League members' health checks, and, when applying, for example, for a health certificate needed to obtain a driver's license, or the equivalent certificate when applying for a firearms license, this would be taken into account. This change should cut costs in assessing the Defense League members' health, it is argued.

The draft would furthermore create the opportunity to check compliance with the requirements of individuals applying for, or working for, the regular Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), individuals providing services or their employees. 

This would ensure that individuals involved in the Defense League cannot present a national security threat, or otherwise hinder the performance of the tasks of the Defense League.

The bill amending Regulation No. 151 of the Government of the Republic of October 10, 2013, "Defense League home rules" would need to pass three Riigikogu readings before it could enter into force; if it does pass, this could happen on January 1, 2024.

The Defense League is a voluntary body recruited regionally and is separate from the EDF, though works closely with it. A national territorial defense body is being organized which marries the two organizations even more closely.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Andrew Whyte

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