How a foiled terror plot prompted requires gun regulation reform in peaceable Iceland

An averted terrorist plot and up to date shootings in Reykjavík put weapons in Iceland within the highlight, sparking conversations about whether or not the Nordic nation ought to tighten its gun legal guidelines and provides extra leeway to police investigating crimes.

Iceland is famend for its secure society, frequently topping lists as one of the peaceable international locations on this planet. 

Whereas gun violence is uncommon, an alleged terrorist plot and three current shootings shocked Icelanders.

On 21 September, 4 Icelandic males had been arrested in Reykjavík, alleged to have engaged in producing 3D-printed weapons and to have conspired to make use of these weapons towards unnamed authorities places of work.

In raids final month, police seized dozens of firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Two males are at present in police custody, and two have been launched.

The current headlines have despatched shockwaves via Iceland. 

“When the information got here out concerning the alleged terrorist plot, you can really feel the alarm in society,” mentioned Helgi Gunnlaugsson, professor of criminology on the College of Iceland

“It got here out of the blue; we don’t have these kind of issues in Iceland.”

Final month’s terror plot arrests come on the heels of a taking pictures in Blönduós in north Iceland in August that left two individuals useless and one individual injured and two different shootings in February. 

It comes amid a surge within the variety of semi-automatic weapons being imported into Iceland. Police figures present there have been 252 such firearms imported in 2020, up from 19 the yr earlier than, two in 2018 and none through the earlier two years. 

Excessive gun possession in Iceland

Whereas Iceland is thought for its peacefulness, gun possession is surprisingly excessive in Iceland.

There are an estimated 106,000 weapons held by civilians in Iceland — about one for each three individuals — and many of the weapons are rifles and shotguns relatively than handguns, in accordance with figures compiled by the database on the College of Sydney.

Armed crime is uncommon and the nation has strict gun legal guidelines: there have solely been 52 gun deaths within the final decade that statistics can be found, and 50 of them had been suicides.

“It’s important to know that gun possession is excessive in Iceland, however the tradition behind it’s linked to looking or collectors,” mentioned Professor Gunnlaugsson. 

“For farming communities, they’ve entry to shotguns, and it’s been part of Icelandic society to have weapons. It’s international to Icelanders to have a gun to guard your self or to level to another person. It’s an alien thought; not a part of the Icelandic mentality, which makes the current information so surprising,” she instructed Euronews.

Shopping for a gun is just not a simple course of both, as Icelandic regulation locations strict limits on gun possession. 

To acquire a licence for a firearm, candidates should be at the least 20 years outdated, move a medical evaluation to make sure they’re mentally and bodily match to deal with a gun and have a clear prison report. 

Candidates should get suggestions from two individuals to attend a course on firearms, gun security, and gun and looking legal guidelines.

“You ship a request to the police, and for those who move the necessities, it’s a must to attend a seminar, taking part in two lectures, a written examination and a ‘hands-on day’ with a neighborhood gun membership,” mentioned Þórarinn Þórarinsson, a police officer in Reykjavík. 

“In the event you move this, you get your ‘A’ allow, permitting you to purchase .22 cal rifles and shotguns. After one yr, you’ll be able to apply for the ‘B’ allow – large rifles and semi-auto shotguns,” he mentioned.

Authorities desires to tighten gun legal guidelines much more

Regardless of the strict legal guidelines, Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson has expressed a need to strengthen gun legal guidelines additional. He’ll submit a proposal of adjustments to the regulation to parliament this autumn. 

“Like I’ve repeatedly mentioned this yr, we’re reconsidering the entire authorized framework for getting a gun licence,” he instructed the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblðið lately.

“On the entire, the regulation is sort of strict, and it isn’t a simple course of getting a gun licence in comparison with the international locations round us. However we’re going over this stuff, and that is on my agenda as a proposal for the autumn, to vary the authorized framework.”

Some gun homeowners usually are not against additional restrictions. 

“For my part, I believe it’s okay to strengthen some legal guidelines and loosen others,” mentioned Sigurður Ingi Jónsson, from the Skotíþróttafélag Kópavogs taking pictures membership. 

“I’m all for outright banning assault rifles which are allowed below the collector’s licence, however I additionally really feel like proudly owning an air pistol shouldn’t have the identical licence as proudly owning a .38 particular or 9mm pistol.”

Arming the police is one other potential space of change. 

Icelandic cops are at present unarmed when patrolling, and the particular forces should be referred to as out if wanted as they’re permitted to hold firearms.

Nevertheless, minister Gunnarsson has not clarified whether or not arming common Icelandic cops is on the playing cards. 

“It’s vitally necessary to verify our cops are secure to allow them to be the guards of the security of the residents. We’re taking a look at this in my ministry, and I’ll make a agency choice on the matter,” he mentioned. 

Officers say there’s a consensus amongst police authorities that the gun legal guidelines want modification, and this work is underway on the ministry of justice. 

“Many police forces in Europe are armed on responsibility,” mentioned Criminology Professor Helgi Gunnlaugsson. 

“The Icelandic police drive is just not, however that might change in a single day. We must see what comes out of the investigation of the alleged terrorism plot, and there is perhaps extra of a need to vary the regulation.”

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