Finland’s Ministry of the Interior has produced a 95-page set of rules for local police units to follow when processing gun permit applications. Among other topics, the guidelines discuss applicant suitability and weapon appropriateness. Here are a few highlights.
Any crimes committed will obviously influence both new applications and existing permits; the rule set includes quite detailed tables of how. Violations and petty offences typically bar new permits for approximately one year, but may allow a person to retain a permit he already holds. A more serious offence usually means no new permits for several years, as well as the cancellation of any existing ones. At the top of the scale, a person who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for murder will never be able to gain a firearms permit.
Low or high age in itself is not grounds for refusing or cancelling a permit, except for underage applicants as specifically enacted in the firearms law. However, the health of a permit holder must be such that he can handle, transport and store his weapons safely. This means that particularly those medical conditions that affect eyesight or control of extremities may pose a barrier to obtaining or preserving a weapons permit. The same applies to mental illnesses, personality disorders and substance abuse.
The circle of acquaintances of an applicant or permit holder may also be a factor. As an example, if the applicant lives in the same household as a person whose application has earlier been denied, or whose permit has been cancelled, the police should carefully estimate whether weapons might fall into illegitimate hands should the permit be granted.
By choice, the officer who will decide on the application should interview the candidate himself. This is not always possible, but in any case, every application must be filed in person.
A variety of information systems, some of which are mentioned by name, is available to the police for gathering information regarding the applicant. These include registries of police and court cases, as well as many other sources. As permits may need to be cancelled at any point in time, the suitability of licensees should be followed throughout the validity of the permit.
WEAPONS AND USAGES
In addition to the applicant’s suitability, that of the proposed weapon must also be evaluated. The weapon must obviously be well suited to its intended usage, such as target shooting or hunting. It must not have excessive firepower, as determined by all potentially dangerous characteristics, including calibre, action (e.g. single shot versus self-loading), and the capacity of any magazine. Since concealability facilitates abuse, the police should also assess whether another, less concealable weapon would be appropriate for the declared usage.
An applicant who applies for a firearms license on the grounds of sports shooting must factually be able to engage in the relevant sport. As an example, if there are no practical clubs in the vicinity, but an application is made on the basis of practical shooting, the police should carefully determine where the applicant actually intends to engage in that hobby.
Plinking or other sporadic shooting does not by itself qualify as a shooting sport. The police cannot mandate that sports shooting should take place in a club, or even in any kind of company, but membership in a shooting club is nevertheless considered a risk control.
In the case of relatively low risk weapons, the permit decision can be based on information, such as a detailed hobby diary, provided directly by the applicant. As the risk rises, for example through higher firepower or better concealability, more evidence should be required from other sources. One form of such evidence is a written statement from a person or a shooting club, attesting in sufficient detail to the fact that the applicant actively pursues a shooting sport.
A shooting hobby should begin with a .22 calibre weapon, unless the sport in question requires a more powerful calibre. A person’s first permit should be temporary in order to ensure the continuance of his shooting hobby, except if he already has pursued the hobby for at least a year using e.g. a club weapon. — Otherwise, temporary permits should be used only in exceptional cases, such as for hunting rifles with a calibre of more than half an inch, such as .50 BMG; these permits should be valid for not more than ten years.
A person applying for a permit on hunting purposes should usually possess a hunting license. At any rate, he must explain where he is entitled to hunt. Additionally, in order for the police to be able to evaluate the suitability of the proposed weapon, the applicant must specify the game he intends to hunt.
Semi-automatic versions of assault rifles are off limits for hunting, due to the potential for abuse that results from their large magazine capacity. Semi-automatic versions of submachine guns are disallowed on the same grounds, and additionally since they lack sufficient precision. The magazine capacity of hunting rifles should not be higher than three rounds. If the manufacturer provides a magazine capable of housing more than ten rounds, then that rifle cannot be approved for hunting purposes.
A black powder rifle may be approved for hunting purposes if there is expert evidence of its suitability, including sufficient power.
A pistol intended for finishing off prey must be of .22 LR calibre, and must not be easily concealable. Permits for other pistols are granted for hunting purposes only in exceptional cases. Third-party evidence is usually required.
For practical, a large clip capacity is almost indispensable. This leads to the conclusion that an application for e.g. an M1911A1 pistol with a magazine for seven rounds cannot be granted on the grounds of practical shooting, whereas acquisition of a modern pistol with considerably higher magazine capacity might be allowed.
Applications for weapons of extremely powerful calibres such as .500 S&W Magnum or .50 BMG can be granted only for silhouette shooting on a suitable range.
Armour piercing, exploding, incendiary, fragmenting, or flechette ammunition is not allowed. Hollow-point and similar expanding bullets are allowed only in .22 calibre and hunting weapons, not in other pistols or revolvers.
Most gas spray permits are granted for personal protection. However, they are not an everyman’s right, and are thus not granted based on subjective fear for one’s safety. In order to obtain a gas spray permit, the applicant must be at particular risk. Typical examples of such applicants include security guards as well as persons who work with intoxicated individuals, for example as taxi drivers or social workers.
The applicant must show proficiency in using a gas spray. Such skills are usually obtained through a training class.
Gas spray permits are always given for a fixed term not longer than five years.
Weapon collectors often possess a large number of weapons that additionally may be exceptionally dangerous. Collection permit holders must therefore be especially suitable. Any criminal offences will entail longer waiting periods than those applied in the case of normal permits.
Simply acquiring a large number of weapons does not qualify as collecting. The applicant must present a clear, consistent, systematic and detailed collection plan. The plan must include a timescale estimate.
The applicant must also explain his interest in the particular type of weapons he intends to collect. He must have basic knowledge of weapon history and firearms technique. Additionally, he must possess special knowledge in the domain of his intended collection. The necessary knowledge can be demonstrated e.g. through a long-running weapons-related hobby, through weapons-related education, through active participation in an association of weapon collectors, and through publishing relevant work.
Before granting an initial collection permit, the police must inspect the applicant’s storage facility. This inspection must be repeated whenever changes occur. In some cases, it may be beneficial to involve the police already while the house is being built.
A collection should begin with ordinary firearms. Beginning collectors are usually not permitted to acquire especially dangerous weapons, especially not post-WW2 full-auto weapons. These can be allowed only for the most experienced and distinguished collectors.
Collection permits for full-auto weapons should include a restriction that disallows firing. For other weapons, only test firing should be allowed.
Permits to keep weapons as keepsakes are granted only when the applicant can show in writing that the weapon in question has special historic or other remembrance value to him. Solely inheriting the weapon is not enough.
Keepsake permits usually do not allow the permit holder to buy or hold ammunition.
Permits are not required for deactivated weapons.
The guidelines close with two appendices detailing the technical requirements for the firearms used in official shooting sports as well as the suitability of a number of pistol, revolver and rifle calibres for different usages.
What do you think of these guidelines in particular or gun control in general? Please post your comments!