Happy Sytennde Mai and gun laws in Norway

syttende_mai_drinking_glassToday is Sytennde Mai or Norwegian Constitution day. Here is more about this big Norwegian celebration day:

The 17th of May (Syttende Mai) is Norway’s Constitution Day, a wonderful spring holiday celebrated with red, white and blue ribbons and flags, national costumes and big smiles as Norwegians everywhere mark the historic signing of their Constitution (Grunnloven) in 1814. That year marked the beginning of Norway’s gaining her independence from Sweden, fully realized in 1905.

The 17th of May evolved over the years in Norway as a day for people to rally for political change or to stand unified during the German occupation (1940-45), when open celebration of the holiday was strictly forbidden. Today, thousands march in children’s and people’s parades all over the country and wherever Norwegians are found–expressing their cultural pride, joy in springtime and honoring those citizens who created Norway’s constitutional government, founding her independence.

The Syttende Mai parades are not military but of Norway’s citizens, marching to the bright music of community and school bands. Decorations of leafy birch branches–in celebration of winter’s end–and Norway’s flag of red, white and blue make for a festive atmosphere.

Both my husband and I are of Norwegian ancestry. My maternal grandfather emigrated from Norway. My husband’s maternal grandparents, along with several of his aunts and uncles, also emigrated to Minnesota from Norway. We have visited with and stayed with relatives from both of our families on a trip to Norway many years ago. We happened to be in Oslo for the May 17th celebration. It was a great experience to be there for the festivities and see the national costumes and even get a glimpse of the King and Queen waving to the crowds from the palace balcony.

In July of 2011 the Norwegians experienced a horrendous mass shooting. Anders Brevik, a right wing extremist, killed 77 people in the worst attack since World War ll. From this article:

The 2011 Norway attacks were two sequential lone wolf terrorist attacks against the government, the civilian population, and a Workers’ Youth League (AUF)-run summer camp in the Oslo region on 22 July 2011, claiming a total of 77 lives.

The first was a car bomb explosion in Oslo within Regjeringskvartalet, the executive government quarter of Norway, at 15:25:22 (CEST).[1] The bomb was made from a mixture of fertiliser and fuel oil[13][14] and placed in the back of a car.[15] The car was placed in front of the office block housing the office of Prime MinisterJens Stoltenberg and other government buildings.[16] The explosion killed eight people and injured at least 209 people, twelve of them seriously.[10][11][12]

The second attack occurred less than two hours later at a summer camp on the island of Utøya in Tyrifjorden, Buskerud. The camp was organized by the AUF, the youth division of the ruling Norwegian Labour Party (AP). A gunman dressed in a homemade police uniform and showing false identification[17][18] gained access to the island and subsequently opened fire at the participants, killing 69 of them,[7][8] and injuring at least 110 people, 55 of them seriously;[11][12] the 69th victim died in a hospital two days after the massacre.[9] Among the dead were personal friends of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and the stepbrother of Norway’s crown princess Mette-Marit.[19]

It was the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II,[20][21] and a survey found that one in four Norwegians knew “someone affected by the attacks”.[22] The European Union, NATO and several countries around the world expressed their support for Norway and condemned the attacks. On 13 August 2012, Norway’s prime minister received the Gjørv Report which concluded that Norway’s police could have prevented the bombing of central Oslo and caught the gunman faster at Utøya, and that more security and emergency measures to prevent further attacks and “mitigate adverse effects” should have been implemented on 22 July.[23]

My city had a beautiful memorial service for the victims of that awful incident. I attended the service and was touched by the outpouring from local folks of Norwegian ancestry and many who just came to express their concerns and sympathies.

Let’s look at more about Norwegian gun laws and how this lone wolf terrorist obtained his weapons and ammunition. More from the above article:

Breivik spent six days in Prague in late August and early September 2010. He chose the Czech Republic because the country has some of the most relaxed laws regarding guns and drugs in Europe. Following his Internet inquiry, Breivik noted that “Prague is known for maybe being the most important transit site point for illicit drugs and weapons in Europe”. Despite the fact that Prague has one of the lowest crime rates among European capitals,[33] Breivik expressed reservations about his personal safety, writing that he believed Prague to be a dangerous place with “many brutal and cynical criminals”.[34] (…)  

Breivik had several fake police badges printed to wear with a police uniform, which he had acquired illegally on the Internet, and which he later wore during the attack.[17][18] Contrary to his expectations, he was unable to get any firearms in the Czech Republic, commenting that it was the “first major setback in [his] operation”. In the end, he concluded that Prague was “far from an ideal city to buy guns”, nothing like “what the BBC reported”, and that he had felt “safer in Prague than in Oslo”.[32][34][36]

You may remember that I wrote about the gun laws in several countries on a recent river boat cruise of the Danube. The Czech Republic was one of them, along with Germany, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary. Brevik was mistaken. Though the Czech Republic’s gun laws are somewhat looser than other European countries, they are stricter than he was led to believe and he was very wrong about Prague in particular. The only danger we faced there was from the crowded streets and making sure our personal belongings were safe from pick pockets.

But I digress.  You can see from this section of the above linked article that Brevik had to lie in order to get a gun through legal channels in Norway since their laws are pretty strict about a permit to own handguns:

Originally, Breivik intended to try to obtain weapons in Germany or Serbia if his mission in Prague failed. The Czech disappointment led him to procure his weapons through legal channels.[36] He decided to obtain a semi-automatic rifle and a Glock pistol legally in Norway, noting that he had a “clean criminal record, hunting license, and two guns (a Benelli Nova12 gaugepump-action shotgun and a .308bolt-action rifle) already for seven years”, and that obtaining the guns legally should therefore not be a problem.[32]

Upon returning to Norway, Breivik obtained a legal permit for a .223-caliberRuger Mini-14 semi-automatic carbine, ostensibly for the purpose of hunting deer. He bought it in late 2010 for €1,400 ($2000). He wanted to purchase a 7.62x39mmRuger Mini-30 semi-automatic carbine, but did however for unknown reasons buy the Mini-14.

Getting a permit for the pistol proved more difficult, as he had to demonstrate regular attendance at a sport shooting club.[34] He also bought ten 30-round magazines for the rifle from a United States supplier, and six magazines for the pistol (including four 30-round magazines) in Norway. From November 2010 to January 2011 he went through 15 training sessions at the Oslo Pistol Club, and by mid-January his application to purchase a Glockpistol was approved.[37][38]

Brevik actually had to go through training sessions in order to get a permit to purchase a gun. What a novel idea! And where did he obtain the ammunition?:

Anders Behring Breivik wrote in a 1,500-page manifesto that he bought 10 30-round ammunition clips for his .223 caliber rifle from an unnamed small U.S. supplier, which then in turn acquired the clips from other suppliers. Norway forbids the sale of clips for hunting rifles that hold more than three bullets, according to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

Breivik wrote in his manifesto that while he could have purchased the high-capacity magazines in Sweden, they would have been significantly more expensive than ordering them from a U.S. supplier. He wrote that he spent $550 for the 10 clips. He also described legally buying four 30-round clips for a Glock handgun in Norway.

Not surprising. Everyone knows that it’s easy to obtain guns and ammunition in the U.S.

So here is another look at the gun laws in Norway. Norway ranks 44th in the world for the number of civilian owned firearms.  The rate of gun homicides in 2012 was .10 per 100,000, far lower than that of our own country. The rate of gun suicides in Norway was 1.63 per 100,000, higher than gun homicides as it is in almost all democratized, developed countries. In Norway, as in most other countries, licensing and registration of firearms and owners is required and carrying guns in public is prohibited.

There is, as I have written many times before, an unmistakable link between strong gun laws and low gun civilian deaths and injuries. This is a case for our advocating for stronger gun laws in our own country. Norwegians and most other countries are using common sense when it comes to protecting their children and communities from devastating gun violence. Occasionally a mass shooting occurs in one of these countries even with stronger gun laws. In some countries, a change to stronger gun laws has occurred after high profile mass shootings. The shootings in Dunblane, Scotland and Port  Arthur, Australia are two examples. 

In Scotland, 16 children and one adult were shot and killed in 1996 by a “loner obsessed with guns”. And here is how the UK responded to this horrendous shooting:

In the wake of the 1987 Hungerford massacre, in which one lone gunman killed 16 people, Britain introduced new legislation — the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 — making registration mandatory for owning shotguns and banning semi-automatic and pump-action weapons.

Within a year and a half of the Dunblane massacre, UK lawmakers had passed a ban on the private ownership of all handguns in mainland Britain, giving the country some of the toughest anti-gun legislation in the world. After both shootings there were firearm amnesties across the UK, resulting in the surrender of thousands of firearms and rounds of ammunition.

Britain has never had a “gun culture” like that of the United States, but there were about 200,000 legally-registered handguns in Britain before the ban, most owned by sports shooters. All small-bore pistols, including the .22 caliber, were included in the ban, along with rifles used by target shooters. Penalties for anyone found in possession of illegal firearms range from heavy fines to prison terms of up to 10 years.

“It was one of the most shocking things that has ever happened in this country and it united the country in a feeling that we had to do something,” Gill Marshall Andrews, of the Gun Control Network, told CNN. “And I don’t think that it would have been possible to make the kind of progress that we have made without that tragedy.”

Now there is the kind of common sense not seen in the U.S. even after the slaughter of 20 6 and 7 year olds in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. In Australia, something similar happened after the massacre of 35 people, also in 1996, at Port Arthur in Tasmania. A disturbed young man accomplished this awful shooting. Let’s take a look at what happened after that shooting:

It moved public opinion.In the wake of the shooting, “a national upwelling of grief and revulsion saw pollsters reporting 90–95% public approval for stringent new gun laws.”

A conservative politician took the lead.Australia’s conservative Prime Minister John Howard spearheaded a push by Australian states and territories to severely restrict gun ownership that year, in what came to be known as the National Firearms Agreement.

It targeted the kinds of guns used in massacres.“As the Port Arthur gunman and several other mass killers had used semi-automatic weapons, the new gun laws banned rapid-fire long guns, specifically to reduce their availability for mass shootings.”

It encouraged people to turn in guns. The government “bought back more than 650,000 of these weapons from existing owners, and tightened requirements for licensing, registration, and safe storage of firearms.”

It wasn’t free. “Total public expenditures were about A$320 million (US$230 million), or approximately A$500 per gun, which isn’t much less than what it costs to buy one.”

But it was paid for. ”The buyback program was financed by an additional 0.2% levy on national health insurance.”

Again, this was the kind of common sense not seen in America. And the result?

Gun homicide rates fell.In the 7 years before the NFA, the average annual firearm homicide rate per 100 000 was 0.43 (range:0.27–0.60), whereas for the 7 years after NFA, the average annual firearm homicide rate was 0.25 (range: 0.16–0.33).” (…)

  1. In the 18 years up to and including 1996, the year of the massacre at Port Arthur, Australia experienced 13 mass shootings. In these events alone, 112 people were shot dead and at least another 52 wounded (table 1). In the 10.5 years since Port Arthur and the revised gun laws, no mass shootings have occurred in Australia.” [Mass shooting defined as five or more dead. None have occurred since the publication of the paper in 2006, either. -eds.]

  2. Gun suicides declined. “In the 18 years (1979–96) [before the law], there were 8850 firearm suicides (annual average 491.7). In the 7 years for which reliable data are available after the announcement of the new gun laws, there were 1726 firearm suicides, an annual average of 246.6.

Let’s get this straight. America loses over 30,000 of its’ citizens to firearms injuries every year. The majority of these are suicides followed by homicides and then accidental gun deaths. This is the American tragedy and we can’t let it continue.

Anyone who says that gun laws don’t matter is deceiving you. The American corporate gun lobby has managed this deception for many years now with little scrutiny from the media and too many of our politicians. There is proof that stronger gun laws lead to fewer gun deaths. So what we need in our own country is a common set of facts that are known and believed by our elected leaders and the general public. For this is how change can happen. This is how we can make sure that our nation’s public health and safety epidemic of gun violence can be addressed in a reasonable way. And by reasonable I mean that we need to make sure that all guns are kept from some people who shouldn’t have them. It’s pretty simple. Those who shouldn’t have them are children, suicidal teens and adults, domestic abusers, felons, those with adjudicated and severe mental illness, terrorists, gang members, and others on the prohibited purchasers list now who can get guns anyway without background checks and through straw purchasing, stolen guns and unsecured guns in homes.

We can save lives if we put our minds to it, deal with the issue from a fact based perspective, have a change in our conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities and put our heads together to protect our children so they can grow into adults who contribute to their society and reach their human potential. Too many lives are cut short before that happens.

So back to Norway and Sytennde Mai– I hope all of my Norwegian relatives had a wonderful celebration. And I hope they will all be safe from harm. I do know that they are much less likely to be harmed by firearms than their cousins in America. It doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s get to work to change laws, hearts and minds.

31 thoughts on “Happy Sytennde Mai and gun laws in Norway

  1. Guy says:

    “It’s pretty simple”, the United States just has to accomplish a ban on “All small-bore pistols, including the .22 caliber …along with rifles used by target shooters. Penalties for anyone found in possession of illegal firearms range from heavy fines to prison terms of up to 10 years.” All in these laws passed in a country “without a ‘gun culture'”,a 2nd amendment, or an appreciation for self-dense (a far different story from our own). Enacting laws of that nature or degree on a national level is borderline impossible. If we were capable of mutilating a single amendment to that level, I would be terrified to see what abuses the others could incur.

    1. Don’t you just wonder how people in all of those other countries live? I mean how are they defending themselves against all of that crime and home invasions and young men walking in neighborhoods wearing hoodies and such? It must be just horrible!

      1. chiefjaybob says:

        They aren’t Joan. Look at the violent crime rates in Europe, especially England. Stabbings have increased so greatly since they enacted “common gunsense” that it is now illegal to purchase a knife if you are under 18, and they are pushing “knife turn-ins.” Even steak knives.

        Your ideas are idiotic and Utopian unicorn farts.

      2. You have provided no proof of your assertions. Show me where you got your information. And as to stabbings, that may be true. Why don’t you start an anti stabbing violence campaign? Me? I will continue to work to reduce gun deaths and injuries which the UK and Australia have done very nicely. I think it’s great, by the way, that the UK has responded to stabbings by passing some laws to prevent them. Isn’t that what we want? To save lives? https://www.gov.uk/buying-carrying-knives Or isn’t that what you want? Good grief. What’s next? They will be coming to take steak knives away from people in their homes I’m quite sure. Panic will ensue and paranoia will reign. Love your language by the way. Nice. Is this how you talk to your wife, daughter, sister, etc? Glad I don’t know people who would write those things publicly because it makes you look like a fool.

  2. paladin says:

    speaking of other countries, does anyone have an opinion on the Rwandan genocide? Where as in the course of 4 months the Hutu’s murdered as many as 800,000 Tutsi’s Ethnic genocide. From what I remember in the news many of these atrocities were committed with machetes. I wonder how many families would have been able to protect themselves with a gun in the home?

    1. cimmerianpraetor says:

      Well I can tell you for sure – nobody in Rwanda was thinking “I am glad that there is strong gun control” when their limbs were about to be cut off.

      And sure as hell nobody in Auschwitz was thinking “I am glad that Hitler confiscated our guns to make our society safer” when they were about to enter the “shower room”.

  3. That’s a good question. Do you have an answer? Given the recent massacre in Waco, Texas where law enforcement officers were armed and still shot at, one wonders how that works. And how many of the biker gang members were also armed and couldn’t defend themselves against other armed bikers or the police for that matter. Arming everyone clearly did not save lives in Waco. In the end we don’t know who shot whom and I’m sure we will find out. What happened in Rwanda was unspeakable. But the fact that you think those poor folks could have defended themselves against an army of people with machetes with a gun is a specious claim not borne out by the facts. And what does it have to do with gun laws in other democratize countries not at war?

  4. paladin says:

    “And what does it have to do with gun laws in other democratize countries not at war”? That is the exact problem. It is hard/impossible to compare us/America with other countries, which ones? the ones that have civil unrest or the ones where everyone is gainfully employed and living a basically happy life. Americas inner cities have some issues they always have and may be getting worse. For the most part we live a pretty good life here in America however in the blink of an eye we had civil unrest recently in Ferguson, we have had a number of times in recent years (hurricane Katrina) as an example were we had a shtf situation. What/where will it be tomorrow? in our own back yard? Could be. Hopefully we ALL wake up tomorrow and the sun also rises and life is good. But what if that doesn’t happen, what IF something goes horribly wrong? That is the point of being able make your own decisions on personal protection. Every man woman and child need to be able to protect themselves from harm in the way they see fit. To say in Waco that “arming everyone clearly did not save lives” is painting with too broad a brush, for all we know someone pulled a knife on someone else who chose to defend himself with a gun. Yes that may be going way out on a limb but it makes the point that I am trying to get across that more gun laws do not mean it will wipe out all incidents of violence. sorry for the rambling but it is hard with multiple subjects.

    1. I don’t believe that is how the fight that led to a massacre started in Waco from what I hear. At first blush, it appears that it was an argument in the bathroom of the restaurant and then someone drove over someone’s foot. We will learn more soon. It is not at all too broad a brush. Everyone, or almost everyone, was armed. And there was a lot of gunfire from both gangs and from police. It was a veritable shoot-out. There is no other word for it. It’s gun violence. What else do you call it? Stronger gun laws prove, in other countries not at war and democratized- I made that clear in my examples- that we can reach a goal of fewer gun deaths. If you read what I posted about Australia and the UK, what other conclusions can you reach? And no one is saying you can’t have a gun for self defense. What we are saying is that having more guns in more public places is not leading to fewer deaths or more public safety. It is possible to compare America with other countries. We do it all the time on other issues. Why not on guns? The difference is that no other country as a second amendment. What situation was there in Katrina by the way? Are you now trying to tell me that stronger gun laws will inevitably lead to gun confiscation. It hasn’t happened yet. Brady background checks do not lead to confiscation. They haven’t and they won’t. But there are some people who should not have guns. I think we can agree on that unless you think we should have a free for all with no laws at all. There is no excuse for our violent gun culture. What has gone horribly wrong is the insane number of people who die every day from gunshot injuries. Do you really think children need to defend themselves with guns? Wow. That’s not my idea of a childhood. Your statements just do not make sense. They are alarmist and not based on facts. “in the way they see fit”. “Every man woman and child”= felons, domestic abusers, adjudicated mentally ill, terrorists? What does that mean exactly?

  5. paladin says:

    “in the way they see fit” means just that; children cannot own guns, felons cannot own guns so they need to protect themselves in another way. Who decides when someone is mentally ill? you can take a prescription for depression and still need to protect yourself. In New York owners of ar 15 style rifles were supposed to register their rifles many did not they are technically breaking the law but hurting no one, now what? will they be fined or “confiscated” you are right it has not happened yet but we are on a slippery slope. Ah… now on to hurricane Katrina there was a story book shtf example of people needing to protect themselves, much looting, murder, rape. New Orleans police superintendent ordered police, national guard, and deputy u.s. marshals to confiscate all civilian-held firearms. oops it already happened! I am not good enough with a computer to link it for you google it and see for yourself. Yes some sources are much better than others but check it out it HAPPENED.

  6. I can’t stop you from believing what you want to believe. I don’t share your view of what happened at Katrina or about the government. You might want to read this one. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2009/08/secret-history-hurricane-katrina There were lots of stories made up and fictional accounts about guns and their use. It was a national emergency and lots of chaos involved. A lot of armed people may just not be a great idea under the circumstances and that includes these heavily armed National Guard. Who were people actually afraid of? As to children and felons defending themselves by other means, how ridiculous is that? You want felons to defend themselves. I am talking about adjudicated mentally ill people, already determined to be dangerous to themselves or others and not just depressed on medication. Come on. Read what I said.

  7. Michael W. says:

    Hey all this is pure unadulterated b*****t. GUN crimes are up in Australia and England since the “common sense” laws took affect.

    1. You are factually wrong Michel W. (Please note that I have made a small edit to your comment which does not change the substance; in future if you expect a comment to be published, exercise better self-censoring as regards offensive language.)

      Here for example is an article from the Guardian which ACCURATELY compares gun violence statistics, using comparisons of data from the CDC.


      “We [Australia] changed our laws. As a result, gun deaths in Australia have dropped by two-thirds, and we have never had another mass shooting.

      Every country is unique, but Australia is more similar to the US than is, say, Japan or England. We have a frontier history and a strong gun culture. Each state and territory has its own gun laws, and in 1996 these varied widely between the jurisdictions. At that time Australia’s firearm mortality rate per population was 2.6/100,000 – about one-quarter the US rate (pdf), according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the US Center for Disease Control. Today the rate is under 1/100,000 – less than one-tenth the US rate (pdf). Those figures refer to all gun deaths – homicide, suicide and unintentional. If we focus on gun homicide rates, the US outstrips Australia 30-fold.

      …Australia didn’t ban guns. Hunting and shooting are still thriving. But by adopting laws that give priority to public safety, we have saved thousands of lives. ”

      There has been no significant increase in crime generally, or in gun crime or gun violence specifically, in either the UK or Australia. The USA still has significantly higher levels of gun violence, and that is highest where gun regulation is most lax and where gun ownership is highest.

      You need to do better homework, and not rely on some of the crappy misinformation circulating primarily on right wing sources pandering to pro-gunners.

      1. cimmerianpraetor says:

        That is interesting idea that “hunting and sport shooting is thriving”.

        I read about half-a-year ago an article by Australian army officer saying that his personal experience is that by now an average American gun owner is more proficient with a rifle than Australian soldier, because they don’t get enough shooting time in army and private gun ownership is next to impossible for them. From looking at the AR 15 wikipedia article it seems that it is quite right.


  8. One of my readers made a rude comment suggesting I had no idea what I was talking about and made the claim that gun crimes are up in England and Australia since the new laws were passed. Here is an article that refutes the idea that overall crime is higher in England than the U.S. and how difficult it is to compute crimes given how they are reported differently. It does not address gun crimes specifically and, of course, my reader had no sources to back up his claim. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/jun/24/blog-posting/social-media-post-says-uk-has-far-higher-violent-c/
    I offer this article as a refutation of my reader’s claims- http://www.businessinsider.com/canada-australia-japan-britain-gun-control-2013-1
    Since I am dealing with gun deaths and injuries on this blog and not overall crime, I will continue to report on that. It is clear that gun deaths and injuries in both the UK and Australia remain at a very low rate since the new laws took effect. In addition, I noted that my reader must have found his information on right wing sites where I saw the claims repeated without evidence to go with the claims. This kind of misleading reporting leads to the deceptions of the corporate gun lobby that gun laws don’t work. They are wrong.

  9. mikee says:

    If criminal violence involving firearms decreases when guns are banned, but total criminal violence of all kinds increases, as has happened in the UK and in Australia, is that a success in your opinion, because gun crimes decreased?

    1. Did total criminal violence increase? The article I posted was one article that indicated that possibility but I don’t think we have enough information to say it is true. Speculation isn’t enough. You might want to check this article out which shows the opposite of what you have claimed. http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/United-Kingdom/United-States/Crime This article also shows the opposite of what you have claimed- http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/feb/13/violent-sexual-crime-statistics-england-wales-2013 “There were 1.9m violent incidents in England and Wales in 2012-13, with just over one in fifty adults victimised, according to the latest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), released today.

      Violent crime has decreased by 13% over the past five years and 35% on the peak figure of 4.2m in 1995. The CSEW surveys people across the country face-to-face and as a result differs from the number of crimes reported by police, as we reported last month.

      The definition of violent crime in the CSEW also differs somewhat from how the police record it. For example, robbery, which the report describes as “an offence in which violence or the threat of violence is used during a theft” is not included by police as violence against the person but is in the CSEW violence category.”” And this- ” Although the 551 homicides recorded in 2012-13 was 20 more than in 2011-12, it is still lower than any other year since 1989’s 521.

      The number of homicides recorded by the police increased between 1961 and 2002-03 but has seen a generally downward trend since. The peak includes 172 homicides committed by Harold Shipman, which although were committed over a long period of time, were recorded by police in 2002-03 as a result of Dame Janet Smith’s inquiry.”

  10. paladin says:

    If someone has violent tendencies they are going to act on them one way or another, right?

  11. There are some misconceptions in the blog post that I’d like to address.

    First of all, the Czech Republic. Breivik chose the country exactly because of the misconceptions that the gun control freaks have about the country and which they spread where they can (including the BBC program Breivik watched).

    There are two main reasons why Breivik could not get a gun in the country. First of all, he could not get a firearm through the legal channels, because over the counter bans are banned. You need to get a gun license first in order to get a gun. Nobody will put their gun business (and there are MANY gun stores compared to rest of Europe bar Switzerland) into peril (and quite possibly land in jail) no matter how much money you would offer them.

    At the same time he would have very hard time getting guns illegally because the illegal firearms market in the country is very limited. As I said above, to get a gun, you need a license. Getting the gun license is about as complicated as getting a driving license (no gun shooting club membership or history of sport shooting like in Norway/France/Germany, etc.). If you have clear criminal history and no history of mental illness (and speak Czech to pass the test), it takes very little effort to get the license and then get guns legally. So basically everybody who wants a gun in the country does have one and the demand for illegal guns is limited to the real criminal underworld.

    Meanwhile in other countries the red tape around legal guns is so thick, that also for many law abiding citizens the only way to be armed is the illegal way. These people are driving up the demand for illegal guns which in turn makes the market larger and purchase opportunities more available. That is why the Charlie Hebdo attackers needed just a couple minutes on the Internet and a couple hours of car drive to get their full auto firearms. Illegal firearms which they paid through a consumer loan. Meanwhile the Charlie Hebdo editor who managed to get through all the red tape and owned a pistol for sport shooting, was bound to have it locked at home in the safe. His application for concealed carry for self defense was not approved despite numerous threats – and attempts – against his life. Now stop for a minute and ponder about the thought that you are on someone’s kill list and the government prevents you from being armed, thus basically precludes you from defending yourself.

    So what gun control advocates in these countries achieved is that law abiding citizens are disarmed while criminals can easily get their hands on whatever they want (the Charlie Hebdo attackers even had a rocket propelled grenade). And should a law abiding citizen decide that there is a real threat to him and that the lives of his family are more precious to him than the government ordered gun ban, he needs to become a criminal by buying an illegal firearm, and ultimately may go to jail either for simply buying it of for using it to defend his family. You may say that crime rates in Europe are lower but I challenge you put on a Jewish Kippah and walk around Paris, and to come back and tell me how safe Europe is. So, Breivik made the mistake of going to Prague instead of going to Berlin or Brussels to buy guns on quite large illegal gun markets there.

    The second misconception being that the Czech Republic is some gun control paradise: no, it isn’t. What the country has is the obligatory licensing system, however, as said before, anyone can get their hands on a gun once they feel they want/need one. Most of the country is relatively safe (much safer than gun control paradise UK or Poland), but once crime rises in any region, the gun ownership rises there too – and that always before the government manages to respond to the crime in any meaningful way.

    So in a nutshell about the Czech Republic:
    – license is obligatory even to own a firearm
    – all licenses are shall issue – cannot be denied if the applicant meets the criteria (unlike in Germany where they can simply tell you “no” just “because”)
    – if you get self defense license, you can conceal carry (also shall issue), no duty to retreat (legal limit – “self defense may not be manifestly disproportionate to the manner of attack”)
    – if you have self defense license, you can conceal carry anything you can legally own and practically conceal carry (e.g. AR 15 in backpack with 150 rounds magazine
    – there are no gun free zones – you can conceal carry within a school and I know that some university students do so. The only place where you need not to be armed are courthouses. You can leave your gun with the judicial guard upon entry to the courthouse (it is actually a misdemeanor to leave it outside in the car) – try doing that in the US
    – basically no limits on types of guns you can own apart from full-auto which requires a may issue permit that is rather hard to get, no limits on magazine capacity, etc.


    And I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. Once you get the license, e.g. fulfill the legal criteria, you are good to go, and by good to go I mean much better gunwise than in some parts of US (California, New York, etc.).

    What mainly caught my eye in the blog is the following: “There is, as I have written many times before, an unmistakable link between strong gun laws and low gun civilian deaths and injuries.” Yes, you are right, less guns mean less gun related deaths. However, less guns don’t mean less OVERALL deaths. If that was true, than Switzerland would be the most murderous country in Europe – while it is actually the safest one. The Czech Republic has 15 times higher gun ownership rate than Poland, yet you are more likely to be murdered in Poland by any means than in the Czech Republic. Czech Republic has 220.000 people cleared to CC of which I’d say at least half frequently does so (of 10mil population), and yet you are no more likely to be murdered in the Czech Republic than in UK.

    Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Nobody turns into a killer just because they have access to a gun. They first decide they will kill and then proceed on finding a means to do so. If they can’t get gun legally, they will do so illegally like in the Charlie Hebdo shooting. If they can’t get a gun, they’ll drive a truck into unsuspecting crowd (like one Czech mass murderer did). If they can’t get a car, they’ll stab random people – and knife is more deadly from close up than a gun (like it is often happening in China). Or they make a bomb, like in Oklahoma.

    Meanwhile law abiding people are minding their own business. The criminal chooses the place, the time, and the victim so that the victim has next to no chance. The only chance the victim may have is having a concealed firearm, something that the criminal doesn’t take into account. Be it a Jew in Paris (now left defenseless) or an old guy walking the dog on the street in the night (a typical CCer here) or someone doing night shift at a gas station somewhere in the US Midwest.

    Some may think that the Czech way with obligatory license makes sense, but before you get any ideas, you need to understand that you can’t translate our experience. Firstly, there is the cultural difference. Secondly, there is the fact that US have the Second Amendment. “Shall not be infringed.” Before you have discussion about gun control, you need to have earnest discussion about changing the 2A. And you need to think whether that is something that can work in your culture. As a suggestion I’d recommend looking South of the US border. There is a country with strong gun control. That country is called Mexico and it can serve as a prime example of the fact that “if the guns are outlawed, the only people who have guns are outlaws.”

    1. Oh dear. So much gun rights and second amendment talk. I am concerned about gun deaths on this blog. As to overall deaths, that is of concern but it is not the topic of my blog. If someone else wants to tackle that , fine. As for your other claims about overall homicide rates being higher and attributing that to the fact that people have to find other means to kill someone when they can’t get a gun, it just isn’t true. Check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate
      I don’t know where you get your information but you really should make sure you have the facts before making the claims. Poland’s overall murder rate is lower than that of the U.S. by any means. The gun death rate in the U.S. is far higher than the rate of murder by any other means and by most means combined and we have lots of guns available as well as other means. So yes, there is a distinct correlation and cause and effect that cannot be ignored. That is why I, and many others are concerned about this problem.

      1. “I don’t know where you get your information but you really should make sure you have the facts before making the claims. Poland’s overall murder rate is lower than that of the U.S. by any means.”

        Was my post too long to read for you? Because you seem to react to something else than what I wrote.

        I said that Czechs have 15 times more guns than Poles, yet Polish murder rate is higher. Swiss have 50 times more guns than Poles, yet Polish murder rate is much, much higher.

        I didn’t compare Poland to US because it is a different society. What I did, though, is that I compared US to Mexico. A country that is bordering on US, shares many of US problems – especially as regards drugs and gangs, but has a very tough gun control.

        Given the gang and drugs problem, both that are not present on any comparable level in Europe, thinking that you US will go the way Poland – or Australia – went is just crazy. If you employ strict gun control in US, you are much more likely to end up like Mexico.

        I live in the Czech Republic and I CC daily. I know that Poland has lower murder rate compared to US, but if I were forced to choose between Poland and some highly armed Midwest part of US solely on the issue of safety, I’d always choose US. The statistics are important only as long as you are on the safe side of them. Should anything bad happen – like it did to the Charlie Hebdo chief editor who applied for CC in France but was not approved – you don’t care about living in relatively safer society, the only thing that matters is whether you are or are not capable of protecting yourself and your family.

        Apart from Tallinn, Estonia (which suffers from Russian gangs problem), Prague is the only European capital with shall issue concealed carry. Yet Prague is the safest capital in Europe (bar Bratislava and Ljubljana, which are both much smaller towns). Using your logic Prague should be the most dangerous, but it is the opposite. I am not saying that it is because people here are armed (although it also plays its role – as long as the system prevents the criminals from easily obtaining firearms), but it is a primary example of the fact that your thesis that high gun ownership leads to high overall murder rate fails (alongside with Zurich, Switzerland, where CC is restricted, but overall gun ownership – including fully automatic assault rifles – is the highest in Europe).

  12. You and I are seeing this from very different perspectives. In the U.S. where there is high gun ownership there are more gun deaths. Gun ownership is very high in the U.S. compared to other countries. You are correct in saying that countries like Switzerland have high gun ownership and relatively low gun deaths. That is due to much stronger gun laws as you also have in your country. Your country also has somewhat more lax gun laws than other European countries. You can see a lot of the numbers at this site which lists by country the number of guns owned, gun policy and gun deaths and injuries. http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states
    For instance, Switzerland has a relatively high rate of gun ownership but a low rate of gun deaths. This is what’s true in most of Europe.

    In the U.S. where gun ownership is very high, we have a very high rate of gun deaths. The difference is in the laws. Stronger gun laws have led to fewer gun deaths because there is more restriction on who can own guns. This article( http://www.npr.org/2013/03/19/174758723/facing-switzerland-gun-culture) shows a growing concern in Switzerland for increasing gun violence and attempts to strengthen laws that are already stronger than laws we have in the U.S.

    As I said, I am concerned with homicides and suicides by any means but I am not sure one can say that because gun laws are strict people will commit homicide and suicide by other means. It means that people do and will kill others and themselves if they are inclined to do so. But in America guns happen to account for the highest number of homicide and suicide deaths. If, by lowering that number it causes death by other means to increase then I assume there will be efforts to stop people from using other methods as well.

    We have a unique problem in American compared to other countries. When I was in Prague, I did not feel unsafe at all while walking on the streets. The same with Bratislava and Ljubljana which I have also visited. I don’t believe it was because people were carrying guns in Prague, however.I believe it was because gun laws are strong in the Czech Republic. I wrote this piece before visiting Prague- http://www.commongunsense.com/2013/04/gun-laws-in-czech-republic.html

    I found this article about what goes on in the Czech Republic regarding guns and gun policy: http://www.expats.cz/prague/article/sports-fitness/guns-and-recreational-sports-shooting-in-the-czech-republic/

    Where high gun ownership as in the U.S. goes along with weak gun laws which make it easy for criminals and others who shouldn’t have guns to get them, gun deaths are higher. You might want to read this- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/29/weak-gun-laws-and-high-gu_n_6572384.html

    Anyway, the first point was that the shooter in the heinous mass shooting in Norway was led to believe that it would be easy for him to get guns in your country. He found that not to be the case because the laws in your country still prevented him from getting what he wanted.

    1. Thank you for the reply. I pointed to Mexico because it is a country that is dealing with the same problems the US has – drugs and gangs – and because it is culturally closer to US than most of Europe (especially as regards the lack of functioning welfare). If Mexico doesn’t work, you can look at Russia. Russia has very strong gun control and yet murder rate double that of American.

      I understand that the availability of guns makes them the primary means for committing murder. I however suspect that the guns are the primary means for committing murder in Mexico too, despite the strong gun control. And I’d suspect that knives are the primary means in Russia.

      I truly believe that strong gun control would not chance US into for example Britain murder rate-wise, but more to Mexico or Russia. The crooks will always have access to firearms, the only people who abide gun control are those that are most unlikely to use the gun in illegal way in the first place. And law abiding citizen will also be the worst victims in case the government fails to protect them, like in the British Rotherham where hundreds of children were sexually abused over the course of 15 years despite numerous appeals of their relatives to police. What can a disarmed family member do in Mexico or Britain when the authorities fail to protect them? I can tell you for sure that the number of 1.400 (!!!!!) possible child victims would not happen in any society where guns are available for defense against criminals, like in US, Czech Republic or Switzerland.


      Anyway, apart from pointing out that my country provides quite straightforward access to firearms to anyone who wants them and meets the legal requirements and yet has lower murder rate than Poland, one of the most disarmed nations not only in Europe, but on the whole planet, I mainly wanted to point out to the fact that US has second amendment.

      Gun control advocates in the US are tiptoeing around the 2A trying to change the laws here and there without being honest about the fact that it is unconstitutional. I understand your argument that stricter access to firearms would probably lead to less gun deaths, but the question is what “stricter” is? Is it Czech Republic strict? Is it France strict – where even people who are on Al Qaeda death list have to basically wait for death unarmed (like Charlie Hebdo editor in chief whose CC license application was not approved)? What is the endgame?

      And once you clearly state what is the endgame, you can start having honest discussion about amending the constitution. In which way should “shall not be infringed” be changed so as that law abiding citizens can be armed and that the black market doesn’t overtake the legal one (like in France, Belgium, and many other European countries).

      1. Where do you think the guns in Mexico come from? Read this article- http://www.gunbabygun.com/gun-baby-gun/waco-texas-biker-gang-shootings-shocked-the-world-but-no-one-cares-about-mexico-drug-war-deaths/

        This is proof if the US had stronger gun laws such as requiring a background check on all gun sales, we could stop some of the trafficking that affects lives in other countries. That is one of other measures we can take. We have an end game. There is no reason to allow for criminals, adjudicated mentally ill people, domestic abusers, etc. to get their hands on guns through “legal” private sales with no background checks. The Columbine shooters, for example, got their guns from a friend who bought them at a gun show without a background check. Lives could have been saved.And these were not criminals until they pulled the trigger. We can go after gun dealers who sell guns to straw purchasers. We can make sure people lock up their guns to avoid having them stolen which is one of the ways criminals get their guns. We don’t have safe storage laws. When people think they need a loaded gun at the ready at all times, they don’t always think about who else can get their hands on the guns? And school shooters most often get their guns from their own homes or from homes of a relative. So yes, there are things we can do to stop some of the shootings. My state passed a law to take guns away from domestic abusers who have been served with orders for protection or restraining orders. The guns can be stored with a friend, with the police, with licensed dealers, and given back if and when the threat is not there any longer. And remember that most of the shootings are not committed by criminals but by people who know each other. The Charlie Hebdo case was awful and yes, these things happen everywhere. Are you aware that a group of Texas gun rights folks tried to replicate the Charlie Hebdo shooting to see if it would have made a difference if someone in the office had a gun? Here is what they found. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2909827/Texas-pro-gun-group-enact-Paris-attacks-time-armed-victim-able-prevent-massacre.html
        The second amendment is not so far been deemed to be unconstitutional. The opposite happened when the Heller decision found that the amendment meant that individuals had a right to own guns but with some qualifiers. As long as the Supreme Court is occupied by the current conservative justices, that is the way things will be. Your thinking we can amend the second amendment is something that would result in an all out battle. I don’t know if you get what the gun culture is really like here or what influence the corporate gun lobby has on our politics. It’s sick and disgusting but it’s reality. That is what we are dealing with in trying to make changes to our laws.

  13. I see your point. And I agree with the fact that the completely access to firearms in US is an issue. I consider the Czech gun laws to represent just the right compromise that allows basically all law abiding citizens to own and bear arms and at the same time has enough checks to make it harder to potentially dangerous people to get guns (I say harder because all they need is just take a train to Belgium or France to buy one on a black market if they are determined).

    I think that no matter what kind of judges are present at the Supreme Court, nobody with a fully functioning brain can deny that the words “(…) the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” mean that both the legislature and government are constitutionally prohibited from infringing access to firearms. Enacting legislation which is in contradiction with this – instead of having honest discussion about changing the 2A – is to me like fighting with a windmill. It was funny when Sancho Panza was doing it, not so much now when the gun control crowd is doing the same.

    For me, the issue is elsewhere. I see people in gun control paradises in Europe being left defenseless against whoever wants to do them ill. You may point out that these people are statistically four times less likely to be killed than if they lived in US, but I can assure you that the murder rate statistic is the least that is on their mind once they realize their life may be in jeopardy. Just yesterday I read article about this French journalist. She made a story on how ISIS is recruiting girls from Europe to marry, now she is basically waiting to be killed. Not that France doesn’t have CC on the books, but in reality her chances to get the permit are about the same as flying to the International Space Station.


    Then there are the Jews. They are attacked on the streets of France daily now. It has reached the point that Jew being attacked (or even killed) on the street is not newsworthy beyond the town/region where it happened. It is not much better in countries like Belgium, Netherlands, etc. Try explaining them that gun control works in their favor, that “statistically” they are better off unarmed…

    I hope you understand what I am trying to say.

    One last thing – the Charlie Hebdo shooting revisited by the Truth About Guns blog people. Let me tell you this: Charlie Hebdo was firebombed in 2011. Government forced them to move to a secret location (the terrorists actually first arrived at the “official” location and only after they forced someone to tell them where the magazine really is they moved there). They were getting death threats not monthly, not weekly, but daily.

    The Texans replicated the situation with 1 person with a firearm being present inside. I assure you that had any Prague news office been in the same situation – with credible daily death threats and being firebombed in past – there would be 60-80% of people carrying their concealed weapons. Quite possibly with two SBRs in quick open safes too. That means 8 – 12 people in place being able to return fire. No matter how well the terrorists were trained by Al Qaeda, there is no way they would have made it out on their own and continue the rampage on the street, and even though there surely would be casualties among the newspapermen, it is highly unlikely that they would be anywhere near the death toll that was actually there.

    So yes, I am fully aware that I can’t do much with my compact pistol when two highly trained killers with fully automatic assault rifles unexpectedly assault the building where nobody else but me is armed, but even then I’d prefer to die on my feet rather than kneeling down.

    1. So you are expressing the views expressed by the gun lobby here. I will disagree with how you see the world as a place where fear and potential disasters are lurking around every corner so that you must be armed. You admitted that you may not be able to save yourself but you’d rather go down trying. What you aren’t saying is that the risks of owning guns are great and they are used more often in the U.S. in domestic shootings, accidental shootings and suicides more often than being used in self defense. To think you can protect yourself against ISIS with your pistol is simplistic thinking. In the situation you describe, it is a fantasy to assume that a whole bunch of people with guns will stop a terrorist attack. You assume that everyone will react by not panicking and will hit the target. In reality that is not what happens. What you describe is a war scene and people acting like soldiers in an attack. That is not the kind of world I want. I want to stop those terrorists from getting their guns in the first place. In the U.S. the names of known terrorists are not on our NICS prohibited purchasers list. We could be arming terrorists here. I just don’t share your view of the world. And I think this discussion has gone far enough now.

  14. paladin says:

    “I want to stop those terrorists from getting their guns in the first place” Good luck with that, talk about “simplistic” thinking.

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