Buyer shortage sees used guns market flooded in Estonia

Handgun. Source: (Martin Dremljuga/ERR)

There is a surplus of used firearms on the Estonian market, while fewer new guns are sold since non-citizens lost the right to own firearms in Estonia. Stricter requirements for renewing weapons permits also play a role as the police say they need to make sure only law-abiding and responsible people own guns.

The start of the Ukraine war saw a gun sales boom in Estonia. Membership in the Defense League exploded and many people wished to get a weapons permit and buy a gun to protect their family and property, Rain Riiv, sales representative for firearms and ammunition traders Citysec, told ERR.

But now the market situation has been turned on its head. Riiv said that people offer Citysec used guns for sale every day, while buyer interest is lukewarm at best. He said that while there are many reasons for the cooldown, one is that non-citizens are no longer allowed to own guns in Estonia.

"Their weapons are confiscated or they have to give them away, sell them or place them in secure storage," Riiv said. "The other thing is that the police seem to be quick to withhold permits when the person misses the deadline for renewing their permit, which is when it is revoked and the person needs to either start the application process from scratch or walk away."

All documentation necessary for a renewed permit, such as the medical certificate and shooting test results, needs to be in place by the time the original permit expires.

Riiv said that while the police notify people of the approaching deadline, many ignore it out of habit as the previous law allowed for more time.

"There have even been cases inside the police where employees have been forced to reapply for their permit. But police officers do not have to pass the shooting test that ordinary citizens need to take, so it is a little easier for them," Riiv explained.

Police Maj. Anneli Annist said that it is the PPA's obligation to make sure only law-abiding and responsible persons are allowed to own guns.

The amended Weapons Act entered into force in March of this year and now requires gun owners to apply for a renewed permit two months before their existing one expires, while this used to be one month.

"People have just as long to get their documentation in order, they simply need to start sooner," Annist said.

The major said that while the PPA can meet people half way if they have a good reason for missing the deadline, failing to renew the permit in time despite repeated reminders will force people to start the application process from scratch.

Rain Riiv said that while the buyer shortage has resulted in lower prices, without new permits, there simply aren't any customers to sell guns to. This is reflected also in new gun sales.

Amendments to the Weapons Act, which the Riigikogu passed this February, prescribed revoking the weapons permits of non-EU and non-NATO member states' citizens and refusing to issue new permits to them.

As of February, 1,300 Russian or Belarusian citizens or stateless persons in Estonia had a weapons permit and held a little over 3,000 firearms. The Ministry of the Interior recommended people sell their weapons as soon as possible.

The amendments also complemented the list of crimes the committing of which means the person can never apply for a weapons permit. These include murder, firearm offenses but also crimes against national security.

While it was possible to apply for a weapons permit in Russian until 2018, it is only possible in Estonian now.

Amendments introduced in 2019 provided that those who own a gun just for security purposes need to pass a new shooting test every time they renew their permit. The idea is that a person who owns a gun needs to know how to use it should the need ever arise.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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