Estonian gun group: relax ammo rules, ban Russians from ownership

Don Petersen

There are a lot of folks living in countries that were once part of the Soviet Union who are understandably more than a little concerned about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine leading to military action against them as well. If Putin’s trying to reboot the Russian empire, the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia may very well be his next targets, even though that would mean a direct conflict with NATO.

While NATO has been sending more troops into these countries to bolster their defense, a group of gun owners in Estonia are asking their government to make some changes to the nation’s gun laws in the name of national security, including stripping Russian citizens of their gun licenses.

The association sent a letter to the country’s interior ministry, in which the organisation proposed to amend the Weapons Act so that only citizens of Estonia, the European Union and NATO member states would be allowed to own and possess firearms and ammunition in Estonia.

The association proposed that the gun licences of foreigners living or having the right of residence in Estonia who hold citizenship of the Russian Federation and its allies should be suspended immediately.

As of 2020, there are 1,300 citizens of the Russian Federation living in Estonia who hold Estonian gun licences and firearms.

“Among them there are also sport shooters who are entitled to own large quantities of cartridges. Firearms in the possession of citizens of a country hostile to Estonia, the so-called fifth column, present a major internal security risk. If today’s Russia develops an interest in destabilising the situation in Estonia, these gun owners can be used for sabotage and diversionary acts and as a hostile force in a war situation,” members of the board of the Gun Owners’ Association wrote in the letter.

The association proposes that the firearms and ammunition belonging to Estonia-based Russian citizens should be deposited immediately with the Estonian Police and Border Guard.

Estonia, like most European nations, doesn’t really view gun ownership as a right, and the country has long had regulations in place that forbid gun possession by individuals deemed to be national security risks, so there might not be any legal barriers to doing this. And I’m sure that some of the Russian nationals living in Estonia have ties to Russian intelligence, but I doubt very much that all 1,300 Russian gun owners living in Estonia are a true national security risk. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that there are some who are adamantly opposed to Putin’s invasion.

Fifth column elements don’t have to be Russian. They could be Estonian nationals as well, and they most certainly could be individuals who don’t legally possess a firearm, so I don’t know what exactly stripping all Russian nationals of their ability to own a firearm would do in terms of enhancing national security.

But that’s not the only thing these Estonian gun owners are asking for, and I think their other demand is actually a necessity.

For security purposes, the association also proposes to increase the amount of ammunition allowed for Estonian citizens up to 1,000 rounds for all firearms. According to the association, the war in Ukraine has shown that weapons in the hands of civilians “have been of great help in disabling individual diversionists as well as hostile groups and marauders”.

“In order to ensure an adequate reserve of defence capabilities, it would be necessary for gun owners to have the legal right to keep a sufficient amount of ammunition at home. The current norm (200 rounds for all firearms for security purposes combined) essentially allows for one or two practice rounds but does not guarantee an adequate security reserve. If a person carries several weapons of different calibres, the number of cartridges allowed per weapon is further reduced.”

The Gun Owners’ Association also wants to increase the ammunition limit for all sporting firearms held by Estonian citizens to 10,000 rounds. “Sport shooters are also a valuable resource in terms of national defence, as they own high quality weapons, are well prepared and trained in marksmanship, and are highly disciplined in safety. Their club activities are also transparent and motivated,” the organisation said.

Estonia shouldn’t just relax the amount of ammunition legal gun owners are allowed to possess. The government should scrap those laws altogether. If the events of the past two weeks have taught us anything about the value of an armed citizenry, it’s that nations shouldn’t wait until invaders are at their doorstep to ensure that citizens have the means and the will to fight back. Just a few days ago I wrote about a Ukrainian artist who said he “regrets like hell” not training with a firearm before he picked up his first gun in early February, and I’m sure there are countless others who feel the same way.

No matter how fervent our hopes and prayers, the fact remains that this conflict could easily escalate and draw in other nations, and now would be a great time for Estonia and other nations that share a border with Russia to re-evaluate their gun control laws in light of the grim prospects of war within their own borders, and to ensure that all responsible citizens have the ability to fight back if necessary.