US Ambassador to Iceland Wants to Carry a Gun

US Ambassador to Iceland Jeffrey Ross Gunter is reportedly so concerned about security in Iceland that he asked the US State Department to apply for special permission for him to carry a firearm, CBS News reports.

The Global Peace Index currently ranks Iceland as the most peaceful country in the world, but this does not seem to have put Ambassador Gunter’s mind at ease about his personal safety. Indeed, dozens of diplomatic staff and officials interviewed by CBS said that he’d been “paranoid about security” and the US Embassy in Iceland recently placed an ad in local papers seeking applicants for full-time bodyguards.

It has not been confirmed whether the State Department followed through with the ambassador’s request for a personal firearm, but it appears that his “irrational” security concerns did not end there. The former dermatologist and Republican Party donor—who only days ago drew swift criticism for retweeting a presidential tweet referring to COVID-19 as the “Invisible China Virus”—also floated the prospect of establishing door-to-door armored car service and suggested that he should be outfitted with a “stab-proof vest.”

See Also: Ambassadorial Tweet Denounced as ‘Deeply Offensive’

Although ownership of small shotguns and hunting rifles is fairly common and handgun ownership has been on the rise in recent years, there are still relatively few licensed personal handguns in the country. Per figures released by the Icelandic police, as of September 2019, there were 39,475 shotguns,  25,573 rifles, and 3,686 handguns as of September 2019—although it should be noted that the handgun total includes single-shot sheep guns used on farms. Icelandic law is very strict on gun control. In order to get a gun license, you must be 20 years or older, pass a mental and physical assessment, and have a clean criminal record. Applicants must also obtain recommendations from two people to attend a course on guns, gun safety, and gun and hunting laws. Only then, after passing a written test, can you get a license for smaller shotguns and rifles. In order to get a permit for larger rifles and semi-automatic shotguns, you must wait an additional year.

See Also: Hold Your Fire – Gun Ownership in Iceland

The CBS article goes on to describe an increasingly fractured and fractious work environment at the US Embassy. Ambassador Gunter has had seven Deputy Chiefs of Mission since his arrival in May 2019—one of whom prepared for over a year for the position and spent a considerable amount of time studying Icelandic only to be blocked because the Ambassador “didn’t like the look of him.” Ambassador Gunter also refused to return to Iceland after attending a conference in the US in February, took a personal leave of absence right in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and reportedly wanted to conduct his job remotely from California.

Read the full CBS report here.

What kind of gun laws exist in Iceland?


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.

Read more about Iceland’s Gun Culture.