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.

Collectors Critical of Proposed Amendment to Weapons Act

guns

A new bill sponsored by the Minister of Justice has been criticised by firearms collectors, RÚV reports. The bill – an amendment to the weapons act – repeals an exemption on the importation of semi-automatic and automatic weapons even if said weapons are being imported as collectables.

Repealing an exemption on “collectable weapons”

On February 28, the Ministry of Justice posted a draft of an amendment to the weapons act on the government’s online consultation portal. The ministry referred to the bill as part of “a necessary revision to the law,” which, among other things, proposes to repeal an exemption on the importation of so-called “collectable weapons” that may include semi-automatic and automatic firearms.

A total of 45 comments – most of them authored by collectors, firearms enthusiasts, and marksmen – were received in regard to the proposed amendment (comments were closed last March); gun collectors complained that their ability to collect firearms was going to be severely limited if the amendment was passed.

Read More: What Kind of Gun Laws Exist in Iceland

“I think it goes without saying that the regulations need to be tightened and that acquiring these weapons is made more difficult – in addition to making increased demands of dealers – but to completely ban importation without any solid reasoning smacks of authoritarianism,” one commentator noted.

Guðjón Agnarsson, who operates the gunship Byssusmiðja Agnars alongside his father, told RÚV that he disproved of the bill: “It’s primarily the fact that the selection of remarkable and historic guns that can be imported to Iceland is being limited,” Guðjón told RÚV.

On the heels of the domestic terror plot

As previously noted, the importation of semi-automatic and automatic firearms will be prohibited if the amendment passes – even if said weapons are considered collectables. WWII enthusiasts would, therefore, no longer be able to import the famous Luger pistol or the Walther PPK.

“The Luger is one of the biggest and most popular collectable guns, and then, of course, the Walther PPK, the pistol with which Hitler shot himself. It would be nice to have one like that,” the aforementioned Guðjón Agnarsson told RÚV. He and his father have requested a meeting with the Minister of Justice in order to discuss the bill and convey the views of the collectors.

As noted by RÚV, the Minister of Justice’s bill was introduced following the so-called domestic terrorism case; the defendants in the case – accused, and later acquitted, of plotting a domestic terrorism attack in Iceland – had hoarded numerous weapons, including dozens of semi-automatic guns and 3D-printed components, alongside a considerable amount of ammunition.

The father of the National Police Commissioner – a well-known firearms dealer, who operates the website www.vopnasali.is – was entangled in the case.

Justice Minister to Authorise the Use of Electroshock Weapons

Jón Gunnarsson Alþingi

The Minister of Justice has decided to authorise the use of electroshock weapons among the police. Clear rules will be set for their application and police officers will receive special training, RÚV reports.

An unfortunate but necessary measure

Over the past few months, the Ministry of Justice has reviewed the possibility of authorising the use of electroshock weapons among police authorities.

“We’ve reviewed the use of these weapons in neighbouring countries and have found that they have proven a great success,” Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson told RÚV this morning. “As a result of this review – which has been ongoing, as I’ve reported to the media – we’ve decided to implement their use in Iceland, especially considering that police departments and police officers have called for it.”

Jón noted that it was unfortunate that such a step “needed to be taken.” Given the state of affairs, however, it was imperative to ensure the safety of police officers, who have observed a growing threat from the use of weapons in Iceland. The frequency of accidents involving police officers has been on the rise.

Jón maintained that the use of electroshock weapons in neighbouring countries had significantly reduced the number of accidents involving police officers and suspects alike. In light of this, the Minister of Justice plans on amending regulations to authorise their use.

When asked about the hazards of such an amendment, Jón replied that every weapon came with its risk: “But we believe that that risk, when it comes to bodily harm, is not as great when compared to the resources that the police currently have at their disposal, such as batons.”

Jón added that strict and clear rules would be set regarding the use of electroshock weapons, noting that the latest models were equipped with cameras that would make their employment easy to monitor. Furthermore, Jón noted, experience had shown that it was often “enough that the weapons were available,” although they did not always need to be used, for there to be an effect. He expects that the police authorities could begin using these weapons as early as the middle of next year, although such a thing would depend on contractual bids and the training of police officers.

When asked if there was a consensus about this amendment within the government, Jón responded thusly: “It’s not been discussed formally. But I have, of course, discussed this repeatedly in the media over recent months and announced that preparations were underway. We’re at a turning point now.”

Police Commissioner’s Father Entangled in Domestic-Terror Investigation

Chief Superintendent Grímur Grímsson

National Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir has recused herself from an investigation into a domestic-terrorism plot; the home of the Police Commissioner’s father, a well-known weapons collector, was searched during the investigation. Two men remain in custody.

A well-known weapons collector and gunsmith

Last week, the police arrested four Icelandic men suspected of planning a domestic-terrorism attack. 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, all of whom are in their twenties, had discussed carrying out an attack during the police’s annual celebration, which will be held tomorrow, October 1.

Read More: Does Iceland have a gun problem?

At a press conference yesterday, Sveinn Ingiberg Magnússon, Chief of Police for the District Attorney’s Office, revealed that National Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir had recused herself from the case as an individual connected to her had been named in the investigation.

Following the press conference, various outlets reported that the individual in question was Guðjón Valdimarsson, the Police Commissioner’s father. According to RÚV, the police had searched the home of Guðjón Valdimarsson, a known weapons collector and gunsmith, who sells weapons and spare parts on the website vopnasalinn.net.

Guðjón is said to own a sizable collection of guns and has been granted a “collector’s licence,” authorising his ownership of illegal weapons if, for example, they possess historical value. The police has, however, not offered any details on Guðjón’s possible connection to the investigation.

Mbl.is references comments that Guðjón Valdimarsson made regarding a bill on weapons, explosives, and fireworks. “My weapons collection is one of the largest private collections in Iceland,” Guðjón remarked, adding that he had invested a considerable amount in weapons, estimating the value of his collection to be ca. ISK 40 million. He also emphasised that his collection was kept in a specially-designed building and that all of the weapons were registered legally.

Police officers to experiment with tasers

The investigation into the domestic-terror plot has brought the discussion of proactive policing into the fore. RÚV reports that the Minister of Justice is drafting regulations that would allow police officers to carry tasers as a part of an experimental project.

Iceland: Terrorist Plot Sparks Debate on Police Power

Icelandic police arrested four men in their twenties this week who are suspected of plotting a terrorist attack on state institutions, possibly including the Icelandic parliament and police force. While the police managed to arrest the men before they could carry out their alleged plan, the incident has sparked a debate on whether the Icelandic police force is adequately equipped for responding to such incidents, and whether the legal framework they operate in is adequate. Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson stated he collaborating with the National Police Commissioner to draft suggestions for reform within the police force.

Ordinary police officers unarmed

“We are considering publishing these suggestions this autumn,” Jón told Fréttablaðið. “The state of organised crime is more serious than people realise.” While Jón stated that increasing police weaponry could potentially be included in those suggestions, he added that does not mean arming ordinary law enforcement officers with firearms. Ordinary policemen in Iceland don’t carry guns on their person, although there is a gun stored in every police car. The special forces, which do carry firearms, are called out for incidents involving weapons, and their call-outs have increased in number recently.

Read More: Does Iceland Have a Gun Problem?

Fjölnir Sæmundsson, chairman of the National Association of Police Officers (Landssamband lögreglumanna) stated that while the incident shocked police officers, he is not of the opinion that it indicates a need to arm ordinary police officers in Iceland. The incident does, however, demonstrate the necessity of collaborating with police departments abroad and perhaps reviewing regulations on the permissions Icelandic police have to monitor certain individuals, according to Fjölnir.

Asked whether Iceland, like other Nordic countries, is experiencing a rise in the activities of extremist alt-right groups, National Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir stated that the risk of crime connected to such groups is still considered low. Sigríður stated that the risk assessment for terrorist incidents would not be changed in light of this one incident.

Common denominator

Recent incidents involving weapons in Iceland contain one commonality: those involved are young, Icelandic males. Professor of Criminology Helgi Gunnlaugsson told Iceland Review he believes this should be studied. “It’s important to look at the ideology. These young Icelandic males think carrying these weapons around is important and they are prepared to use them. We need to study what’s happening with young males that are on the margins of society.”

Helgi suggested that within the Icelandic system, there is more emphasis on responding to crime instead of trying to prevent it. “You have the police, but it would also be helpful to have other types of agencies approaching troubled youth in a constructive way.”

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.”