The Firearms Act submitted to Parliament, changes required by the EU Directive will not prevent target shooting or firearm collection
On 11 October, the Government submitted a proposal to Parliament on amendments to the Firearms Act, the Act on Voluntary National Defence and the Conscription Act. The proposal will implement the changes required by the EU Firearms Directive in Finnish legislation.
"I wish to thank all stakeholders for their active contribution. We received a great number of statements and comments, many of which led to significant amendments to the government proposal. We now have a legislative proposal that will ensure the security of citizens in compliance with the Directive, while also enabling the continued exercise of target shooting, firearm collection and military reservist activities," says Minister of the Interior Kai Mykkänen.
The most significant amendments made on the basis of the statements relate to the licences required for loading devices having a high capacity, the formulation and age limits of the 'reservist derogation', the required duration of recreational activities as well as the firearms licences of associations.
"Of interest to those who have been using high-capacity loading devices in compliance with former provisions is that firearms licences granted prior to June 2017 will continue to be in force after the amendments," says Mykkänen.
Aiming to prevent dangerous firearms from falling into the wrong hands
The objective of the proposal is to prevent particularly dangerous firearms and their components from falling into the wrong hands without creating undue difficulties for reservist activities, which are unique by European standards, or for other recreational firearms activities in Finland.
The amendments to the EU Firearms Directive were motivated by the terrorist acts committed in Central Europe in recent years in which the perpetrators used automatic firearms, among other weapons. Following the amendments to the Directive, certain firearms, such as semi-automatic weapons, are now classified as category A weapons, which means they are prohibited. In other words, some weapons that were formerly classified as category B weapons, which are subject to a licence, have been moved to category A. The definitions of firearms categories and the provisions concerning firearms licences will be amended to comply with the Directive.
Category A firearms allowed in shooting training
EU Member States may choose to grant licences for the acquisition and possession of prohibited weapons, for example, for national defence purposes and to museums, collectors and target shooters. This option was used in the government proposal.
The National Defence Training Association of Finland may be granted licences for weapons classified in category A in the Directive, if used in shooting training that serves military preparedness. Reservist and sports-shooting associations may also acquire category A weapons for sports-shooting training.
Moreover, individual reservists may be granted a licence for category A weapons that are considered essential for reservist activities, while target shooters may be granted a licence for semi-automatic weapons equipped with a loading device having a high capacity and for short semi-automatic weapons. No special permits may be granted on these bases for other very dangerous weapons, such as explosives or modified fully-automatic weapons.
Possibility to revoke a firearms licence if the conditions are no longer fulfilled
One of the Directive’s main objectives was to improve the traceability and monitoring of firearms. In future, a licence for firearm possession must be revoked if the conditions for granting the licence are no longer fulfilled. In addition, the discretionary bases for revoking a licence for firearm possession will be specified.
Holders of a licence to possess firearms will be monitored more closely in future, and firearm licences will be reviewed regularly. As regards online weapons purchases, the identity of buyers and the validity of their licences will be checked.
Licence holders will be required to submit a notification to the police if they lend a firearm or firearm component to someone for more than 30 days. The provision regarding the authorisation to acquire firearm components will be specified so that the components acquired under a firearm licence cannot be used to build a new firearm.
The amended acts are to enter into force as soon as possible.
Elina Rantakokko, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 611, [email protected]
Titta Andersson-Bohren, Special Adviser, tel. +358 50 5131 539, [email protected] (requests to interview Minister Mykkänen)