Changes in firearms legislation sharply reduce demand for handguns
Number of new gun licences declines from last year
New firearms legislation, which was prompted by two school massacres in Finland in 2007 and 2008, appears to have led to a sharp decline in applications for handgun licences.
“Many dealers still have guns acquired in 2009 in their storerooms, and that is where they will stay”, says Timo Huikkala, vice chairman of the Finnish Association of Gun Dealers.
A new law took effect in June, placing strict conditions for handgun permits. Retailers say that sales of handguns have declined to less than a tenth of the previous level. The total number of new gun licences granted in the first half of this year has fallen by over 20 per cent from 2011. The main reason for the decline in approved gun licences was the smaller number of applications.
Huikkala says that gun dealers now have about 10,000 unsold pistols and revolvers. About 250,000 private citizens have handguns. Huikkala estimates that their monetary value has fallen to less than a tenth of what it was before.
Dealers are afraid that the estates of deceased gun owners will be less willing to relinquish the firearms than before.
“When someone from the estate of a deceased person calls and offers a gun, I end up saying that I can take the pistols for free. Not everyone takes a positive view of this”, says gun dealer Markus Weckström.
Gun dealers say that .22 calibre pistols have completely lost their value.
The police section of the Ministry of the Interior emphasises that wiping out the value of pistols was not the intention when the law was being drafted.
Deputy National Police Commissioner Pentti Saira says that warnings from gun retailers that the regulations would lead to more unauthorised weapons being kept at home might be be ustified.
Gun dealers also say that the new law has led to reduced sales of rifles and hunting weapons. The cumbersome process for getting a licence can take months to complete, leading some to think twice before embarking on the process. Many also fear that they might lose all of their weapons if they say something incautious in the psychological test which is part of the process; Saira insists that such fears are unfounded.
The number of people taking up the shooting hobby in Finland is declining. Risto Aarrekivi, executive director of the Finnish Shooting Sport Federation says that his organisation is concerned about the future of the sport if young shooters find it difficult to get licences for weapons using gunpowder.
To get a licence for a pistol, the applicant now needs to prove that he or she has actively practiced shooting over a period of two years in the form of a signed certificate of a trainer authorised by police. Police say that the real demand for handguns will become apparent in a couple of years. It also appears that there was some hoarding of pistols before the new law took effect. Shooting hobbyists no longer expect any new surge in gun ownership.
“We expected to get many new members once the firearms law changed, because getting a permit was made conditional to membership in a shooting club. This has not happened”, says Markku Alanen, executive director of the Helsinki shooting club West Shooters.
Previously in HS International Edition:
NEWS ANALYSIS: Gun-Finland on trial (22.2.2011)
Finland: a nation armed to the teeth (18.11.2008)
Interior Minister would compromise on data protection for gun licence applicants (11.11.2008)
Physicians reluctant to report unfit firearms users to police (8.10.2010)
Prime Minister open to ban on private possession of handguns (24.9.2008)
Interior Ministry plans tighter screening of gun licence applicants (12.3.2009)
Kauhajoki police officer claims there were no legal grounds to confiscate killer’s handgun (27.3.2009)
Eleven die in shooting bloodbath (24.9.2008)
Gunman and eight others die in school shooting spree (8.11.2007)