Guns in Norway

Restrictive rules, traditional uses for firearms

Photo: Monica Strømdahl / courtesy of Oslo Skytesenter
Oslo Skytesenter manager Willy Røgneberg in the shop.

M. Michael Brady
Asker, Norway

As in the U.S., many residents of Norway own guns. But the statistics and culture of gun ownership differ between the two countries. According to the current Wikipedia entry, “Estimated number of guns per capita by country,” the USA leads the world in ownership with more guns than people, 112.6 guns per 100 residents, compared to Norway in 10th place with 31.3 guns per 100 residents, slightly fewer than neighboring Sweden’s 31.6, and marginally more than 31.2 in France.

Norwegian gun culture reflects a tradition of hunting and of marksmanship. There are almost half a million registered hunters in the country, nearly a 10th of the population, and the two top hunting districts—Agder and Hedemark—have the highest percentages of hunters and of gun ownership. Shooting is a traditional sport; Norwegians have taken part in Olympic shooting events since the second Games in 1900, and to date Norway ranks seventh in the number of Olympic medals in shooting. And in biathlon, the sport combining rifle shooting and cross-country ski racing, Norway leads in number of medals awarded in Biathlon World Championships. Yet despite the high level of awareness of them, guns are seldom seen outside the settings of their uses, such as in marksmanship or biathlon meets or during hunting seasons.

Today there are 1,329,000 guns registered in private ownership in Norway, some 90,000 more than in 2011. Anders Groven, secretary-general of the Norwegian Shooting Association, reckons that the increase reflects the rising affluence of the country, as hunters can now afford selections of rifles for different sorts of game.

Gun laws have been prominent in public debate since far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik used two semi-automatic guns to kill 69 young people at a youth camp on the island of Utøya on July 22, 2011. A commission appointed to investigate the mass murder has recommended that semi-automatic weapons be prohibited. But a complete ban seems unlikely, as there’s political opposition to it in the Storting.

After the January 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, the EU initiated drafting of a new directive that will further restrict semi-automatic guns. Countries throughout the Schengen Agreement area, including Norway, will be obliged to comply with it.

The man in Norway most aware of the current and imminent future changes in gun ownership most likely is Willy Røgneberg, the manager of Oslo Skytesenter (shooting center), the country’s largest gun shop (shown above at the shop counter). He observes that, “In Norway we’ve always had lots of guns, as we have a hunting culture. Most people in Norway respect weapons and view them sensibly. Here in the shop we’ve hardly ever had a customer come in to buy a gun on impulse, not least because so doing is illegal.” To that he adds the opinion that the country’s gun laws are sufficiently strict.

In any event, the future legal status of gun ownership in Norway remains to be seen, as a new law is expected to be debated by the Storting in its spring session this year.

Norwegian gun ownership rules:
Civilian gun ownership in Norway is restricted to holders of a Våpenkort (Firearms Permit) that certifies a legal use for a gun, such as hunting or sports shooting. Holders must be 18 for rifles and shotguns and 21 for handguns. A Våpenkort is issued only upon proof of capability to own and use a gun, such as a valid hunting license or sports shooting license. A hunting license is issued upon completion of a nine-session, 30-hour course on guns, wildlife, and environmental protection, and a sports shooting license is issued upon completion of a firearms safety course of at least nine hours.

Ownership of a gun requires that it or a part essential for its function be locked in a certified gun safe bolted to a permanent part of the dwelling. Essential parts include bolts for rifles, slides for pistols, and barrels for shotguns.

A valid Våpenkort must be shown to buy ammunition.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 24, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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