Q: Since the recent tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona, carried out with a handgun clearly designed to kill people and not to hunt with, gun control is again being discussed widely in the US. What kind of gun laws exist in Iceland?
Ron, Maryland, USA
A: According to a colleague of mine who is an enthusiastic hunter and is well informed on the Icelandic gun laws, all automatic and semi-automatic rifles and most handguns are banned for public use in Iceland.
People who hold a gun license can buy semi-automatic shotguns, bolt-action rifles, single-shot rifles and double-barrel rifles to hunt with but all rifles over 8 millimeters in caliber are banned in Iceland, although with a special permit to hunt large animals abroad, such as elephants or African cape buffalos.
It is also possible to obtain a special collector’s license for handguns and sports associations practicing marksmanship can apply for a license to use small indoor 22 caliber handguns as used in the Olympics.
To obtain a gun license people must attend a course and pass a test at the police station. They also have to pass a medical examination where they are specifically asked about their mental health. The gun license is issued by the respective District Commissioner.
There is no limitation on the number of guns each person can own, although legislation is pending, but everyone who owns more than three guns has to have a legal gun cabinet.
My colleague said the vast majority of hunters own fewer than ten guns; two or three is the average.
Icelandic police officers do not carry any guns, only the Special Forces, which are known as the Viking Squad in Iceland. The Coast Guard is also armed, carrying handguns and automatic rifles.