Gun politics in Italy
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Gun politics in Italy incorporates the political and regulatory aspects of firearms usage in the country.[nb 1] The Italian Constitution recognizes the right to keep and bear arms, however different types of gun licenses can be obtained from the national police authorities. According to a 2007 study by The Small Arms Survey Project, the per capita gun ownership rate in Italy is around 12% with an estimated 7 million registered firearms in circulation.
To legally purchase firearms in Italy one must either obtain a "purchase authorization" (nulla osta all'acquisto), which allows the holder to purchase and own a firearm but not carry or use it, or be issued with a carry license first. A firearm purchase authorization is mostly used today to inherit a deceased close relative's firearms. To obtain either license applicants must be 18 or older, prove they can handle and use a firearm safely (usually by obtaining a certificate from a shooting range after attending a practical shooting course), declare to have a clean criminal record (verification will be made by the Police authorities) and must not be mentally ill or be a known abuser of, or addicted to, alcohol or illegal drugs. Other grounds for refusal of a carry license include being a conscientious objector or living with persons who may gain access to the firearms and abuse them (e.g. living with family members who are mentally ill, alcoholic or drug addicts).
National Firearms Catalogue
Italian laws prescribed that any rifled-barreled firearm imported or manufactured in Italy after 1976 should have been identified by a progressive catalogue number, assigned by a commission composed of government officials and representatives from the Italian arms industries. The role of the commission was to decide if a rifled firearm should be classified either a war firearm (arma da guerra) or a common firearm (arma comune da sparo). The national firearms catalogue described the characteristics of the weapon (barrel and overall length, number of rounds in the magazine and other technical specifications) that cannot legally be altered without resubmitting the weapon to the commission. Common firearms with certain features (sights, type of action) can be classified as sporting firearms (armi sportive), which can be used for self defence as an extrema ratio (es. during a home invasion) but which can not be carried for said purpose.
The said catalogue and the related commission has been abolished since 2012, due to the economic stability law, approved 12 November 2011; its place has been taken by the Banco Nazionale di Prova (National Proof House) in Gardone Val Trompia, which admits or rejects firearms pending importation, at the same time maintaining an electronic record of the characteristics (long or short firearm, European firearm category, manufacturer, magazine capacity, etc.) of the firearms permitted for sale.
Firearms and ammunition possession
All private firearms must be registered at the local police department within "72 hours", as specified by law, after purchase or transfer, although this limit goes from the time the firearm is actually taken to the place where it is to be registered (for example, the firearm may be bought at a time and withdrawn after a week from the retailer; only then the weapon will require the registration).
Citizens are allowed to own:
- up to three common firearms (usually handguns, but all firearms not using hunting calibers fall into this category, such as 10-gauge shotguns, or some .22 rimfire pistols and rifles);
- up to six weapons that have been classified as manufactured for shooting sports by the National Proof House;
- an unlimited number of hunting weapons (both rifles and shotguns);
- up to eight antique or historical weapons (manufactured before 1890);
- unlimited numbers of single shot muzzle loader replicas, for which no registration is needed;
- unlimited numbers of airguns under 7.5 Joules of muzzle energy, specifically approved by the Ministry of Interior, which require no registration as well.
Ammunition is also regulated. While each licensed individual can keep 1500 rounds of hunting ammunition, only 200 rounds of handgun ammunition are allowed. A license to store additional 1500 rounds of pistol ammunition can be obtained, provided specific requirements are met. Ammunition purchases must also be registered.
Trade and ownership of deactivated and replica (non firing) firearms is unrestricted, although every deactivated firearm must be accompanied by a deactivation certificate in conformity to the Italian law.
Firearm collector's license
A Firearm Collector's License allows the bearer to keep at home an unlimited number of weapons, but they usually cannot be used or moved, their ammunition cannot be bought and, if the number of owned weapons is high, the owner may be requested to keep them in a safe room; exact details may vary according to the local police department's policy.
Carry guns in public places
In Italy it is illegal to carry weapons in public places, but the law provides the following exceptions:
A hunting license, along with a special hunting permit issued by the region of residence, allows to carry hunting weapons only during the hunting season and only within game preserves. When transporting them outside game reserves, the shotguns must be kept unloaded and locked in their case.
Firearms allowed for hunt are:
- All smooth bore guns, with a gauge not bigger than 12, overall length more than 60 cm and a barrel length more than 30 cm.
- Rifled bore guns, firing a bullet with a diameter more than 5.6mm or a case longer than 40mm, overall length more than 60 cm and a barrel length more than 30 cm.
Shooting sports license
With a shooting sports license, citizens are allowed to transport (unloaded and stored in a proper case) firearms from their home to an authorized shooting range or to another safe place to practice shooting, which, in case of a private place, must be reasonably distant from roads and inhabited areas, and not accessible by unauthorized people.
Concealed carry license
A concealed carry license allows a citizen to carry a handgun for personal defense; this license is usually much harder to obtain than the other two firearm licenses, must be renewed yearly (while the hunting and shooting sports licences are valid for 6 years), and the applicant has to provide a valid reason to carry a concealed gun (e.g. a salesperson of valuable goods such as jewelry). A special carry license is released to private security personnel; this license differs from the standard carry licenses in that it has to be renewed every two years and a lower tax to pay for the release. Open-carry of handguns is not explicitly forbidden by the law, but it is de facto permitted only to on-duty security personnel.
Italian gun laws pose restrictions to the kind of firearms and calibers available to civilians. Full-automatic/select-fire firearms (machineguns), grenade launchers, suppressors, destructive devices and all other kinds of military weapons and ammunition are forbidden; a prohibited caliber is expressly the 9mm Parabellum on pistols (but it is permitted on rifles). On the other hand, standard military calibers such as 5.56x45mm NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO are available in civilian loads and with civilian bullet. Semi-automatic firearms can be bought by licensees without additional restrictions.
National police officers are always allowed to carry their handguns without territorial or time restrictions, but are required to carry them concealed when they are off duty. Submachine guns can only be carried while on duty.
Local police officers are generally allowed to carry their handguns (concealed when off duty), but only within their territorial limits.
Security guards can be allowed by the prefect to carry weapons when on duty and without territorial limits, upon request; usually this permission is granted to cash-in-transit security officers, as well as to private security personnel guarding banks, shopping malls and other facilities (in recent years, even some public offices and hospitals in Italy have contracted private security personnel for 24/7 protection).
The guns carried by police forces are usually the property of the national or local government authority from which they depend; National Police officers are usually assigned a pistol for an indefinite time, while gun assignment specifications for Local Police forces may vary from indefinite to limited, according to local regulations.
- "Small Arms Survey 2007: Guns and the City - Chapter 2:Completing the Count: Civilian Firearms". Small Arms Survey. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
- "Guns per 100 residents". EduTube.org. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
- "Autorizzazione all'acquisto di armi e munizioni" (in Italian). http://www.poliziadistato.it. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
- "Sintesi del diritto delle armi (A brief essay on gun law)" (in Italian). www.earmi.it. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
- "Gun and Firearms Laws, Justice, Culture and Crime in Foreign Countries". Retrieved 24 July 2010.
- Dave Kopel & Carlo Stagnaro. "Gianni, Get Your Gun". Retrieved 24 July 2010.