By Ulla Lauridsen
I’m a Dane, a sports shooter and a longtime reader of TTAG. I’m also incredibly envious of your Second Amendmend rights. Let me tell you about the weapons laws here in Denmark. Basically, the government and the police are very much against anyone being armed. A steady rise in violent crime since the 70´s has led to still more restrictive weapons laws, leaving law abiding citizens increasingly defenseless . . .
Let me give you some examples: Pepper or teargas sprays have never been legal. Not ever. Violations carry the penalty of a fine. Tasers? Of course not. It’s not even an issue.
Knife laws have been tightened steadily. Today, you are allowed to carry a folding knife – and it has to be a folding knife – with a blade no longer than three inches. The knife must be constructed so that it requires both hands to open it, and the knife cannot have a lock. The Spiderco Pingo was designed so as to fulfill all these requirements.
As anyone can see, this outlaws a lot of excellent knives for a lot of purposes. For instance, people unpacking crates in shops have been found guilty of transgressing the law for having forgotten a Stanley-knife in their pocket when leaving the workplace. The Stanley-knife locks, you see.
Obviously, I and other law abiding Danes are highly inconvenienced, while all sorts of scum blithely ignore the law. If you are caught in possession – and have committed no other crime – you get a week in prison.
As for gun rights … well, there really is no such thing. To obtain permission to buy a gun, you have one option only: join a sports shooters association and shoot regularly for at least two years. Then you can apply to the police, arguing that you need a personal firearm to further develop your marksmanship. The club chairman will have to co-sign and if your criminal record is clean, you will get this permission.
You can only buy guns for which there are competitions in your sports shooters association, and you can buy at most two of each caliber – whether you actually need more guns is left up to the discretion of the local police. All guns are registered, obviously, and have to be presented to your club chairman once a year. You cannot leave the club without joining another – if you do, it will be reported to the police immediately, and your permit will be revoked.
And when I say ‘guns’, I mean semi-auto pistols and revolvers only. Also, they have to be more than eight inches long so as not to lend themselves to concealment. The guns you own must be stored at home in an approved gun safe. When going to the range and back, they must be packed away safely – definitely not carried in a holster on your body. And you cannot stop in at a store, for instance, unless you leave the weapon in a locked car. As I walk back and forth with my guns in a backpack, I have to go straight there.
Obviously, these firearms are not intended for self-protection. Actually, you are well advised to never hint at any such motive in your shooting association. Sport, sport, sport is the watchword. And illegal possession of a gun is an automatic one year prison sentence.
Does this mean there is no gun crime in Denmark? Of course not – but I have to admit it’s a lot less than in America. Personally, I think this comes down to our traditionally very homogenous and peaceful society, but it is difficult to convince my fellow Danes of this. I refer to the fact that most households in Switzerland have a full-auto or semi-auto military gun while maintaining a low crime rate, but to no avail.
Danes in general are very happy with the way things are and look at ‘conditions in America’ with abhorrence. What we have here is a sort of contract: we renounce weapons for ourselves in exchange for the police keeping weapons out of the hands of criminals.
As much as I love and cherish my SIG P226, I find this attitude acceptable and somewhat reasonable as long as the politicians and the police keep up their end of the bargain. The problem is that the balance is slipping. When I was a child back in the 70’s, it was front page news every time a gun had been used in a crime anywhere in the country. Basically, only organized criminals – biker gangs – had them, and they only shot at each other. Now, every punk seems to have one, and it’s becoming an everyday occurrence. As much as the police strive to take guns away from criminals, there seems to be no shortage.
Violent crime is on the rise for reasons difficult to discuss in polite circles here in Denmark, and the politicians are getting desperate. Their answer so far is a constant tightening of laws and sentencing. As the readers of TTAG know, the legal approach only really affects law abiding people, and stronger sentencing does not seem to have made a dent.
One part of the gun laws especially sends the chills down my back:
“If, in exceptional circumstances, it is required in the interest of public safety, the Minister of Justice can decide that objects or substances prohibited by § 1 shall be forfeited to the government against full compensation or deposited. Prior to setting such rules negotiations should, if possible, be undertaken with the organizations The Danish Shooting Union, The Danish Sports Federation and The Company Sports Association.”
The translation is mine, and it’s probably not the best, but you get the gist: Our Department of Justice can decide to take our weapons away completely, if they think ‘circumstances’ warrant it. I have a feeling that they will do so at exactly the moment we need them the most.
You Americans should be eternally thankful for your Second Amendment, because it establishes a RIGHT. In Denmark, gun owners – we few, we happy few – are on probation.