Gun politics in Norway
|Part of the Politics series|
Gun politics in Norway incorporates the political and regulatory aspects of firearms usage in the country. Citizens are allowed to keep firearms (normally for hunting and sports shooting). The acquisition and storage of guns is regulated by the state.
Firearms in Norway are regulated by the Firearm Weapons Act, with a new secondary law in effect 1 July 2009 providing more detailed regulation. The act covers all firearms, air pressure weapons, and some "exotic arms" as the act defines. All weapons that would be regulated must have two things in common: they must eject a projectile mechanically and use some form of propellant to perform the ejection. The act includes military type weapons, flare guns, and easily manufactured replicas that can be converted to working firearms. Guns owned and operated under the responsibility of the armed forces and the police are excepted from the civilian weapons act.
The detailed interpretation of the law is laid out in another regulation.
Types of civilian-owned guns
Norway has a large population of hunters. Semi-automatic and bolt action rifles, as well as shotguns, make up the better part of the guns in civilian homes. There is a total ban on automatic weapons for civilians, unless they fall into the collector category. Modification of semi-automatic guns into fully automatic without the consent of the police is a felony crime.
Handguns have some calibre restrictions. A Smith & Wesson Model 500, for example, is illegal due to its high power, but other, less powerful guns, are legal as they are used in sports shooting. Norway has a long tradition of high-end sports shooting competitions, especially rifle shooting. Each calibre must be used in some type of competition to be allowed. Also, there is a restriction on the number of weapons an owner can have for each calibre. For recreational shooters, only one gun is allowed in each calibre. For professional and semi-professional shooters, a spare gun is allowed. A recreational shooter is only allowed to own four different handguns. To obtain more, documentation on extensive involvement in sport shooting is needed.
To own a gun in Norway, one must document a use for the gun. By far the most common grounds for civilian ownership are hunting and sports shooting, in that order. Other needs can include special guard duties or self-defence, but the first is rare unless the person shows identification confirming that he or she is a trained guard or member of a law-enforcement agency and the second is practically never accepted as a reason for gun ownership.
There are special rules for collectors of guns. They are exempt from many parts of the regulation, but, in turn, they must meet even more narrow qualifications. Collectors may purchase, but not fire without permission, all kinds of guns in their respective areas of interest, which they have defined in advance.
Ownership is regulated in paragraph 7, and responsibility for issuing a gun ownership license is given to the police authority in the applicant's district.
Rifle and shotgun ownership permission can be given to "sober and responsible" persons 18 years or older. The applicant for the permission must document a need for the weapon. Two exceptions exist to this age qualification. Persons under the age of 18, but over 16 may apply for rifle or shotgun ownership licence with the consent of parents or guardian. For handguns, the lowest ownership age is 21 with no exceptions allowed. For inherited weapons, it is up to the local police chief to make a decision based on the individual facts of the case.
An applicant must have a clean police record in order to obtain an ownership license.
Obtaining a license
There are two ways of obtaining an ownership license in Norway. The most common is through the process of obtaining a hunting license, the other is through a sports shooting license.
To obtain a hunting license, the applicant must complete a 30 hour, 9 session course and pass a written multiple choice exam. The course includes firearm theory, firearm training, wildlife theory, and environmental protection training.
Once the exam is passed, the applicant may enroll in the hunter registry and receive a hunting license. The membership must be renewed each year, through license payment. The hunting license is brought to the police station, where the applicant fills out an application for obtaining the proper firearm for his or her hunt. After evaluation, part of the application is sent back to the applicant if it was approved. Upon approval, the applicant can take the returned form to the store and purchase the firearm listed in the application.
For sports shooters
The qualification process for sporting is theoretically easier, but requires more time and practice. The applicant must enroll in a firearm safety course, lasting at least 9 hours. The course includes a written test, but is shorter than the hunting exam, as it only deals with firearm safety. Two thirds of the course are completed on the shooting range as practice. The passing of the test results in acceptance to the approved gun club, and a license for competition. However, while the hunters can obtain their firearm almost at once, sports shooters must prove their intentions to compete by actively training or competing in the gun club. This means regular attendance (at least 15 times) at gun club training over the course of six months. The applicant must use firearms owned by the club or borrowed at the range for this period. After six months, the applicant may apply for weapon ownership. The start license and a written recommendation from the gun club president are brought to the police station, and the competition class is filled out on the application. If approved, it will be returned to the applicant as with the hunter license.
In both cases, if the application is rejected, the applicant is allowed an explanation of the reason, and an appeal.
Guns in civilian ownership
The law for storage of firearms are strict.
For shotguns and rifles, the requirement given in the weapons act is to have the firearm, or a vital part of it, securely locked away. Generally, this means an approved gun safe, securely bolted to a non-removable part of the house. (A vital part is considered to be the bolt group—the bolt head will suffice—for rifles, the slide for pistols, or the barrel of a shotgun.)
The police are allowed to make a home inspection of the safe. An inspection must be announced more than 48 hours in advance, and the police are only allowed to see the safe and make sure it is legally installed.
Ammunition is generally only sold to persons with valid weapon license. However, if one is in possession of a legally unregistered shotgun bought before 1 April 1990, and is in the hunter registry, one can purchase shotgun ammunition. Without a special permit only 10,000 rounds of ammunition can be stored by a single person, or 15,000 rounds if 5,000 of them are 22LR or smaller calibre. Two kg of black powder may be stored in a separate building if the person has a license for a black-powder firearm.
Older rules stated that the ammunition must be locked away separately, but these rules were abandoned in the latest revision of the weapons act.
The owner must always have a good reason to bring the weapon to a public place. Such reasons include transportation to a range or hunting area, transportation for repairs, or for maintenance and hobby activities.
During transportation, the weapon must be empty and concealed, but not worn on the body, and under the constant supervision of the owner. This applies equally to replicas, air guns and decommissioned firearms.
General gun politics
Until the 2011 Norway attacks, gun ownership had not been the subject of much political debate in Norway.