Police to get new firearms registry soon
System taking effect in November aimed at reducing paperwork and making supervision of gun licences easier
After a long wait, Finnish police are getting a new electronic registry of firearms owned by citizens. Alongside the Vitja data system, which is to be launched in 2014, the registry is set to make it considerably easier for police to keep tabs on firearms in Finland.
In the early stages the new firearms registry will streamline processing of licence applications. There will be less paperwork, as the applications will be made directly into the data system.
Deputy police chief Esko Rasi says that the number of visits to a police station for gun licence applicants will be cut from four to two. However, he says that the new system will not bring significant changes to police field work.
More efficient enforcement of firearms legislation is coming. When Vitja is introduced, it will be possible to compare information from different sources more efficiently.
Whereas police now have to make a separate computer run to get gun licence information about an assault suspect, for instance, such cross-referencing will be automatic in the future.
The current police firearms registry dates back to 1997. Rasi says that it is based on software design from the 1980s.
The system uses antiquated technology. It was originally scheduled for replacement in June 2011 when new firearms legislation took effect.
The November launch of the new electronic firearms registry will come a year and a half behind schedule.
Several problems will remain unresolved, however. The information from the old registry will be directly transferred to the new one, which means that mistakes and inaccuracies will come with it.
The serial numbers of guns are often incorrect, which makes it difficult to identify stolen weapons.
To solve the problem all of Finland’s 600,000 gun owners would have to bring their 1.6 million guns to police for inspection.
"The matter has been discussed several times since 1998. It has always been seen as too costly", Rasi says.
In the coming years, the process of adding weapons to the registry will be smoother; police will start training new specialised weapons inspectors already this year.
Even when the new systems are in place, the firearms registry will continue to have shortcomings for years to come. Until 1998 all weapons were registered in paper files, from where they have been later been put in electronic form.
In some police units part of the information has gone missing. This means that many Finns possess legal weapons for which there is no record. In some cases, there is a record of a licensed weapon, with inadequate details of its type.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Interior Minister calls for improved firearms safety after two children die in gun accidents (27.8.2012)
Helsinki region has lower per-capita gun ownership than rest of Finland (5.6.2012)
Interior Ministry plans tighter screening of gun licence applicants (12.3.2009)