Finland and small arms

Friday, 27. July 2012     0 comment(s)
Charly Salonius-Pasternak
Senior Research Fellow - The Global Security research programme

Like many other countries, Finland is pushing for a “robust and comprehensive treaty” at the UN sponsored arms trade treaty negotiations in New York; small arms and light weapons (SALW) may also be included in the treaty.This must be highly commended. The purpose of the treaty is ultimately to alleviate human suffering and reduce access to tools which continue to feed it. It would be heartening to see Finnish politicians lobbying as aggressively for the banning of handguns and other semi-automatic weapons in Finland.

Finland ranks near the top in per capita gun ownership in the world, and has experienced a number of tragic school shootings during the past decade. A new law making it hard to gain a gun permit has reduced the number of handguns sold, but continual possession and ownership is still legal. The question is, why?

Why does Finland feel it is important to seek international treaties to reduce the number of weapons which can be used “for human rights abuses and other illegal ends”, yet, deems the ownership and continual possession of weapons developed solely for killing other humans by regular citizens as being ok? Unfortunately it is not the only disconnect between stated Finnish foreign policy goals and domestic behavior. Obviously the Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja cannot be held responsible, but his fellow parliamentarians may want to consider how far Finland’s foreign and domestic policies can diverge without being accused of hypocrisy by others.

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