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New law puts more weapons in hands of volunteers

The war in Ukraine has boosted Finns' interest in voluntary defence exercises.

Defence minister Antti Kaikkonen (Centre) said the bill will pass into law as early as July. Image: Jarkko Riikonen / Yle

A gun law amendment aims to give volunteers access to weapons and ammunition used by the Defence Forces and Border Guard. Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, interest in national defence has increased, with many individuals taking part in voluntary training exercises.

Defence minister Antti Kaikkonen (Centre) said that the amendment to the law is due to enter into force at the beginning of July and will offer more flexibility for voluntary national defence training.

"Shooting practice is an important part of training and the need for training and readiness has increased," Kaikkonen told Yle.

The reform will allow weapons and ammunition to be used by both the Defence Forces and Border guard in voluntary national defence training. At the moment, live weapons and ammunition are used in voluntary training for reservist refresher courses on marksmanship, but most shooting materiel is prioritised for mandatory training.

Kaikkonen said that the amendment has been prepared at a record speed.

"The Ministry of Defence has prepared this amendment in record time, because the needs of national defence require it," Kaikkonen told Yle.

However, Kaikkonen emphasised that the weapons would still be handled under the supervision of the Defence Forces and the Border Guard.

"No wild west is being created here, but we are responding responsibly and in a controlled way to citizens' strong and growing interest in national defence," Kaikkonen explained.

Kaikkonen said there have been similar activities in the past, but expanding the Defence Forces' and Border Guard's weapons into voluntary training will allow up to 50,000 more training days than was previously possible.

The government last Friday released funding of more than three million euros for national defence organisations. Most of this money is allocated for the National Defence Training Association of Finland (MPK) which organises shooting exercises. At the time Kaikkonen referred to the April report on Finland's changed security environment, which found that citizen's interest in national defence has increased as a result of Russia's invasion in Ukraine.