While the Finnish government has recommended changes to firearm ownership laws for this year - a move that the police believe will curb the general public’s enthusiasm for applying for firearm permits - the numbers are already down.
Last year, 59,324 gun permits were issued whereas in 2007, a peak year, 85,409 permits were granted.
The declining number of permits has been affected by several factors including the rising cost of a permit, the economic recession and the tightening of the rules regarding the application process.
In 2011 a new firearms act was also introduced that included changes such as raising the minimum age for getting a gun permit and more paperwork.
“The application process has become lengthier as a result of the changes,” says Eastern Finland’s Police Superintendent Risto Jääskeläinen.
Now those who apply for a firearms permit are aptitude tested, which means that getting a new permit can take several weeks on average. In some cases, it can take several months if more than three years have elapsed since granting of the previous one. If the applicant is a first-timer, they must take an aptitude test.
”As the questionnaire and test are now done on a computer, some people shy away from it. Many have appeared nervous and had difficulties completing some of the more demanding questions. Some have left the test uncompleted and not applied for a permit,” says Jääskeläinen.
For first-timers, there’s also a police interview, which takes place after the aptitude test.
More potential changes on the horizon
In the future, those who own firearms will be required to store them in an approved locked safety cupboard or a police-approved storage facility. Previously, firearm storage in a locked place was sufficient.
”Individuals who apply for a firearm permit will need to invest in a proper storage unit, which will be inspected by police,” says Jääskeläinen.
There will be a five-year transition period to the new storage regulations. Exact standards for the approved safety lockers and facilities are still being drafted.