Request Explanation of Weapons Purchased for Council of Europe Summit

The institute responsible for overseeing state purchases in Iceland wants the Police Commissioner to tally and justify the purchase of weapons and equipment for the Council of Europe Summit held in Iceland last month. Icelandic police spent ISK 185 million [$1.3 million, €1.2 million] from the state treasury on weapons for the summit and an additional ISK 151 million [$1.1 million, €1 million] on equipment such as helmets and vests. Morgunblaðið reported first.

Read More: Armed Police and Snipers in Reykjavík for Council of Europe Summit

Central Public Procurement (Ríkiskaup), the institution responsible for handling the purchasing of supplies and service for state institutions has asked the Police Commissioner to submit a formal report on the purchases of weapons and equipment made for the European Council Summit to the Publications Office of the European Union and justify the purchases and how they were made.

A press release from police states that the total cost of the summit will be published before the end of July, including salary costs of 650 Icelandic police officers, 96 foreign police officers, and 120 other staff members of police who took part in the event. Salary costs for the event have already been estimated at ISK 1.4 billion [$10.3 million, €9.3 million]. Despite requests, police have not made public the number of weapons that were purchased for the summit, but underlined in the press release that the weapons purchased were mostly Glock pistols and MP5 submachine guns, “not machine guns.”

The security around the summit, which took place on May 16 and 17 in Reykjavík’s Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, was unlike anything ever before seen in Iceland. Large parts of the city centre were blocked off to the public and to motor vehicles and roads were closed temporarily for police-escorted heads of state travelling to and from the event.

Read More: A Matter of State

The press release from police emphasises the short period of time the institution had to prepare for the event and the relatively long time required to commission and deliver equipment to Iceland, implying that decisions on purchases needed to be made rapidly. Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson has stated that police will keep the weapons and equipment purchased for the event.

Police to Keep Firearms from Council of Europe Summit

Jón Gunnarsson Alþingi

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson has stated that the firearms bought for the Council of Europe Summit last week will not be sold. The capacity of the police had taken a leap after the summit, both in terms of training and equipment.

“No reason to sell”

In an interview with RÚV yesterday, Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson stated that he saw “no reason” to sell the firearms that were purchased for the police ahead of the Council of Europe summit last week: the police would be “better set” in the event that another meeting of this magnitude was to be held in Iceland.

“Who’s to say that there won’t be another big event like this here at some point, sooner rather than later; no one knows,” Jón Gunnarsson told RÚV.

As noted by the National Broadcaster, Arndís Anna Kristínardóttir Gunnarsdóttir, member of Parliament for the Pirates, was the first to draw attention to the issue in Parliament yesterday. She inquired of the minister what would happen to the weapons, now that the meeting was over. Jón replied that the authorities did not intend on selling the firearms.

“I’ve made the analogy that it’s akin to how newcomers to the national team gain a lot of experience by playing big national matches. This was our big national match on this stage,” Jón remarked on the floor of Parliament yesterday.

Significant improvement in police’s capacity

In his interview with RÚV, Jón stated that he didn’t believe there was “any reason” for the police to sell these weapons. “There is a big change in the capacity of the police after this meeting, in terms of education, training, and equipment,” Jón remarked. “I believe we’ve added three to five police motorcycles. We’ve also purchased a lot of clothing and protective equipment,” Jón added, citing the renewal and increase in police vests as an example.

When asked about the exact costs of purchasing this new equipment, Jón was unwilling to say, referring the matter to the police, who possessed information about which equipment was purchased and how much it cost.

Asked if the guns would be “put in a box and thrown into the attic” until the next meeting was held, Jón responded thusly: “Again, you’ll have to ask the police. I don’t think they have an attic, but they definitely have some storage room down in the basement, where a lot of equipment is kept.”

As noted by RÚV, data regarding the cost of purchasing equipment for the summit is not yet available, although it may be available later this week.

Armed Plain-Clothes Police and Snipers in Reykjavík for Council of Europe Summit

The Council of Europe summit that will be held in Reykjavík, Iceland next month will not only bring European officials to the streets of the capital, but also hundreds of armed police as well as snipers. RÚV reports that around 300 police officers have received special training in the use of firearms in preparation for the event. Some 250 suits have been purchased so that officers can be on duty in plain-clothes during the event.

Armed police officers are a very rare sight in Iceland, as ordinary police officers do not carry firearms on their person. Police vehicles are equipped with a firearm, and special forces do carry firearms on their person, but they are only called out for violent incidents. Such extensive security and law enforcement as is being prepared for the summit has never been seen in Iceland.

All streets around Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, where the summit will take place, will be closed to vehicular traffic May 16 and 17 during the event, though they will be open to pedestrians and cyclists. Drivers can expect delays across a broader area as heads of state will receive police escorts when they are travelling by car. In total, 44 heads of state have confirmed their attendance at the event.

Iceland has around 850 active police officers and most of them will be involved in the summit in one way or another. According to the Ministry of Justice, the cost of law enforcement for the event will be around ISK 1.4 billion [$10.3 million, €9.3 million].

Masked Man Carrying Fake Firearm Raises Alarm Downtown

Reykjavík pond downtown

Police were dispatched to the Vesturbær neighborhood on the west side of Reykjavík in the early hours of Sunday morning after receiving reports of a masked man carrying a firearm, RÚV reports. Thankfully, the matter was resolved quickly and the weapon in question turned out to be an imitation.

According to police reports, officers, including members of the police’s armed division, were sent to the area to locate the man and ensure public safety at the time the report was made. Eye witnesses reported the presence of six police cars, including two special forces vehicles, blocking routes into the city centre.

See Also: Heightened Police Presence in Reykjavík This Weekend

Just after 1:00 am, a car was stopped in Vesturbær, and a fake firearm was confiscated from its occupant, who was taken into custody.

At time of writing, police were unable to confirm if the man was intending to present the fake firearm as a real weapon. The case will be reviewed over the weekend and state prosecutors will decide how to proceed.

Custody of Domestic Terror Suspects Extended by Two Weeks

Suspect

The two individuals suspected of planning a domestic terror attack will be held in custody for another two weeks, Vísir reports. A defence attorney has called the decision “incomprehensible” in light of a psychiatric assessment that held that the men were neither a danger to themselves nor others.

Psychiatric assessment “not taken into account”

Four Icelandic men were arrested on September 21 suspected of “terrorist plots” against state institutions and civilians. Two of the suspects were immediately released; the other two have remained in custody.

According to the police, the suspects had hoarded numerous weapons – including dozens of semi-automatic guns and 3D-printed components – alongside a considerable amount of ammunition. The men, both of whom are in their twenties, had discussed carrying out attacks against political figures, among them Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson and Chairman of Efling, Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir.

As noted by Vísir yesterday, the two men were initially placed in custody on the basis of investigative interests, but the current extension, as confirmed by the Reykjavík District Court, was predicated on public interest, with the men believed to be a danger to the public.

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, defence attorney for one of the men, stated that the decision was founded on a threat analysis carried out by the National Police Department. “I’ve criticised the fact that the threat assessment, which actually predated the psychiatric assessment, did not take the psychiatric assessment into account.”

According to Sveinn, the psychiatrist who carried out the assessment at the behest of the police did not believe the men to be a threat to themselves or others. The District Court, however, did not take this assessment into account. Sveinn Andri added that his client would be appealing the District Court’s decision, which was a big disappointment, to the Court of Appeal.

“It’s always disappointing for individuals who are in custody without good reason to have to remain in custody. But we’ll simply have to deal with it and try to have the decision overturned in the Court of Appeals. That would be ideal.”

In late October, Sveinn Andri Sveinsson dismissed private messages between the suspects as a “failed attempt at humour,” adding that he did not believe that either of the men would be charged with planning a terrorist attack.

Commissioner’s Father Unable to Account for Dozens of Firearms

Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir - Police Commissioner in Iceland

The father of Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir was unable to account for dozens of firearms discovered at his home during an investigation of a domestic-terror plot. No investigation was opened into his actions, despite his admission that he had sold illegally modified weapons in exchange for cash payment, RÚV reports.

Conflict of interest leads to recusal

As reported in late September, National Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir recused herself from an investigation into a domestic-terror plot after the home of her father, Guðjón Valdimarsson – a well-known weapons collector and vendor – was searched during the investigation.

According to RÚV, a search of Guðjón’s home revealed nearly forty unlicensed firearms, for which Guðjón was unable to adequately account. Guðjón was not arrested, however, and the police have not divulged his legal status in relation to the investigation.

This is not the first time that Sigríður Björk has been forced to recuse herself from an investigation. In 2018, Sigríður’s father was also entangled in an investigation involving the alleged offence of an individual in possession of a DPMS rifle that had been modified to function as semi-automatic.

“In that case, the sole aim of the investigation was whether the buyer – who did not have the knowledge, the tools, nor the access to spare parts – had modified the weapon himself. The individual who sold the rifle, however, was only interrogated as a witness,” Einar Gautur Steingrímsson, attorney for the man who was charged with the weapons offence, told RÚV.

No investigation opened despite modification

As noted by RÚV, the accused was acquitted before the Court of Appeal (Landsréttur) as the prosecution failed to prove that he had modified the weapon. The case was thereby closed, without any investigation being opened into whether Guðjón Valdimarsson, or someone else, had modified the weapon.

“It’s completely mind-boggling that someone who sells a firearm, which has been modified, is not the subject of the investigation alongside the buyer; the person who modified the weapon is not investigated but rather the person who couldn’t,” Einar Gautur added.

Guðjón was, however, interrogated, although the interrogation was conducted at his home in Hafnarfjörður and not at the police station. Police reports do not indicate why the interrogation took place at his home.

RÚV also notes that it possesses documents proving that the defendant in the aforementioned case had paid Guðjón ISK 1.5 million ($10,00 / €10,000) for the weapon, in cash. No receipt or invoice changed hands during the time of the transaction (i.e. no tax was paid). During his interrogation, Guðjón partially confirmed that the transaction had been conducted with cash for ISK 700,000 ($5,000 / €5,00).

“Nothing to suggest” misconduct

In an interview with Vísir published this morning, Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson maintained that the police had not protected the Police Commissioner’s father.

“I’ve no information to indicate that such a thing happened,” Jón remarked. “As far as that older case (from 2018) is concerned, during a time when the Police Commissioner was employed as the Chief of the Capital Area Police, she declared her conflict of interest and recused herself. The investigation was subsequently transferred to someone else.”

Jón went on to suggest that he wasn’t adequately familiar with the details of the current investigation to comment but that the Police Commissioner appeared to have comported herself ethically.

When asked whether it wasn’t clear that the legislation on firearms needed to be amended – to prevent individuals from hoarding firearms, among them semi-automatic weapons – Jón stated that he hoped such amendments would be concluded before the end of the year.

“When I arrived at the Ministry, I realised that this legislation would need to be reviewed. We’re in the process of doing so now, as I’ve previously announced.”

Nearly 90,000 Firearms in Iceland

guns bullets

There were 76,680 firearms registered to 36,548 owners in Iceland as of January 1, RÚV reports. Taking into account lost, broken, seized, and exportable firearms, as well as weapons utilised by police and unsold inventory, the total firearm count is estimated at 87, 048.

The count comes as the Minister of Justice’s response to an inquiry from Pirate MP Andrés Ingi Jónsson concerning the importation and production of firearms in Iceland.

From 2012 to 2016, the number of imported firearms imported and produced in Iceland per year was between 1,300 – 1,500, but since 2017, that number has been increased to 2,200 – 2,600 per year.

Most imported firearms are registered to men, although between 2012 and 2021, between 22 and 69 women registered as the owner of imported firearms per year,  making women roughly 3-4% of registered owners. Twenty individuals own 2,052 weapons, which comes out to an average of 103 firearms per owner.

Read More: Does Iceland Have a Gun Problem?

Andrés’ inquiry was particularly interested in how many weapons that were produced by 3D printers police have confiscated. According to the Minister of Justice’s answer, only one firearm produced by 3D printer has been confiscated.

According to Icelandic police, legally obtained guns do not appear to be a source of crime, and the guns that have been used for illegal purposes in Iceland are mainly stolen and not purchased.

In Focus: Does Iceland Have a Gun Problem?

guns

Two recent shootings in Reykjavík have put gun ownership in the spotlight, sparking conversations about how many semiautomatic weapons there are in Iceland, if they are too easy to obtain, and the ideology of those carrying and using these firearms.Iceland is renowned for its safety: it has topped the Global Peace Index for the past […]

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Arming Police With Tasers Under Consideration

police station reykjavík

Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson will meet with the National Federation of Icelandic Police (Landssamband lögreglumanna) and police commissioners to discuss the possibility of arming Icelandic police with tasers, RÚV reports. The Federation says tasers would not be useful in situations where the attacker is armed with a firearm. If tasers were introduced into the force, it would be according to strict regulations, the Minister stated.

Would not be used against guns

Two shootings occurred in Reykjavík this month, just days apart, sparking a conversation about whether Icelandic Police’s standard equipment of pepper spray and clubs is sufficient. Research shows that police officers, the government, and the general public are all of the opinion that firearms are not necessary for police. Still, the number of police cases involving weapons (both knifes and guns) has increased in recent years, leading the force to reconsider what should be included in standard equipment.

The National Federation of Icelandic Police stated in a press release that the discussion surrounding tasers is not directly linked to the two shootings, and that tasers would not be used in situations where attackers are armed with firearms. “However, such equipment must be investigated thoroughly to ensure police officers’ safety, but it should be borne in mind that such equipment will not be used when firearms are used,” the press release reads.

Read More: Two Shootings Cause Concern Among Reykjavík Residents

“This development is alarming and something we do not want to see continue. We want to try and put an end to this in our society. We enjoy a lot of security here in Iceland and we want to ensure that residents are safe. At the same time, we must ensure that police can respond appropriately, protect themselves and residents,” the Minister of Justice stated in a radio interview this morning. “We want to try and put an end to this in our society. We enjoy a lot of security here in Iceland and we want to ensure that residents are safe. At the same time, we must ensure that police can respond appropriately, protect themselves and residents. We are considering whether it might be appropriate to take the step of introducing these electric weapons, which have been used a lot abroad. Including in neighbouring countries.”

The Minister stated that tasers would help police officers avoid conflicts involving clubs, which are more likely to cause physical injury in arrests, according to some studies. The call to consider the use of tasers has come from the ranks of police, according to Jón. “I hear that and I am listening. I’m going to meet with them and afterwards, we will decide whether we take that step. And then we will do that according to very strict regulations.”

Two Shootings Cause Concern Among Reykjavík Residents

police car

A man was shot in downtown Reykjavík on Saturday night, only days after two people were shot in the Grafarvogur neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city. Both shootings appear to be the result of a personal conflict and neither incident has resulted in death, although the woman shot last week suffered serious injuries. Despite these incidents, Icelandic police have stated that the general public is not at increased risk from firearms.

General public not the target of armed attacks

Three men were arrested in the shooting that occurred last Saturday night in downtown Reykjavík, though one has now been released. All of the men are Icelandic and under 20 years old. The wounded man was brought to hospital and according to Vísir was not in critical condition. In last week’s shooting, a man and woman were wounded and the woman’s injuries were serious but not critical.  Vísir’s sources state that the weapon used was a 3D-printed firearm but the police have not issued any information on the firearm in question. Professor of Sociology Helgi Gunnlaugsson told RÚV that while the does not indicate that the general public is at increased risk from violent crime, it is a cause for concern if young men in Iceland are choosing to solve conflicts with weapons. Chief Superintendent Grímur Grímsson told Vísir. “When two shootings occur over the course of a week, it’s not unusual for people to wonder and be concerned. We believe that both of these cases were incidents where people point firearms at other people they know. So we do not believe that there is cause to be worried about the general public being shot.”

Police shut down websites that sell firearms

Runólfur Þórhallsson, Superintendent of the National Police Commissioner’s Analytical Department, says it is not out of the question for clashes between criminal groups to impact the public. Mostly, though: “It could cause fear. That is a very bad development in our small, peaceful society. But we are not seeing that their goal is to use weapons against the general public, these are first and foremost clashes between criminals.”

Rúnólfur says police have been monitoring an increase in the use of firearms over the past several years. Icelandic police closely monitor websites that sell firearms, for example, and have even managed to take down a few. Rúnólfur admits that police could do better when it comes to preventative policing, but it would require more manpower. “This is especially true of organised crime,” he stated.

Read more: Gun-ownership in Iceland (for subscribers)

Weapons for police not necessary

Icelandic police do not carry guns as part of their standard equipment, though the police force has special armed units to respond to situations involving firearms. Rúnólfur does not consider it necessary to increase the use of weapons by police officers. “There was both a survey among police officers and we know that both the public and the government are of the opinion that general law enforcement [officers] do not need to be armed. Although these have been serious events in the past few days, we still consider that to be the case.”

Nevertheless, such cases are a challenge for police, who Rúnólfur says do need to increase the number of officers, something that the force has been trying to do for over a decade. “It just hasn’t been successful, unfortunately, we are still in a similar situation to the one we were in in 2007, so it’s clear we have to pull up our sleeves.”