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Reforms simplify gun permit applications in Finland

New gun laws will soon make it easier for people to obtain firearms permits in Finland. The reforms will allow many firearm permit applications to be made on the internet, without a face-to-face meeting with police - even for first-time applicants. Gun permit applicants will also no longer be required to undergo psychological evaluations. The reforms go into effect at the beginning of next year.

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Image: Laura Valta / Yle

At the start of next year, the process of applying for a gun permit in Finland will become easier. Once the reforms go into effect, people who want to obtain a hunting rifle or shotgun will no longer be required to appear at a police station for an interview, but instead apply for the application online.

The officer in charge of gun licensing at the Ostrobothnia police department in western Finland, Hans Snellmann says that despite the changes in bureaucracy, gun permits will not be granted automatically.

"We look at data in the registry and police records to determine whether the applicant fulfils criteria [to be granted a permit]," Snellmann says.

However, gaining access to a permit for handguns or other firearms will still require applicants to visit a local police station.

Psychological checks "don't serve intended purpose"

Also at the beginning of next year, gun permit applicants will no longer be required to undergo a psychological evaluation. Snellmann says the current evaluations are inadequate anyway.

"It's true that [the police] have long considered that the tests don't serve their intended purpose," Snellmann says.

"Very few applicants fail the test. People can go to a doctor and if the doctor decides that a permit can be granted, they get their permit," he says.

Stricter laws on gun ownership were imposed following school shootings in Finland in 2007 and 2008 that left 20 people dead.

Snellmann: 10 gun limit - in practice

While there is no legal limit to the number of firearms one person may own, Snellmann says that police tend to keep the number up to ten guns. People are allowed to own more than ten - for example gun collectors or those who have reasons for owning more than that.

Each firearm permit must be applied for individually, with an explanation about why the applicant needs each gun.

Snellman says that rejections of gun permit applications are uncommon because applicants generally know whether they would meet the requirements or not.

The absolute maximum number of guns allowed to be owned by a person is 10, but that is the upper limit.

"There must be concrete reasons and need for someone to have six or seven guns and still want to get one more," Snellmann said. "We recommend that people sell weapons they no longer need so that they don't lie around unnecessarily. People who buy weapons from a private seller have to prove they have the right to buy them," he says, otherwise the seller cannot sell the gun.

Current firearm applications cost 86 euros each, and 40 euros for each additional gun.

Stefan Pellas, game manager at the Coastal Ostrobothnia's branch of the Finnish Wildlife Agency, says he is pleased with the upcoming reforms and the increased ease in which hunters will be able to apply for permits, saying it will reduce them having to run back and forth to police stations to get permits.

Edited on July 27, 2017 at 14:29 to clarify that there is no legal limit to the amount of guns a person can own, but that generally police keep that figure to ten firearms unless a person has an appropriate reason for owning more.

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