NEWS

Government targets illegal gun ownership

A new bill being drafted on owning and bearing weapons, to replace the current Law 2193, is the Public Order Ministry’s answer to what has become an extremely troubling situation in Greece. At the moment, an estimated 1.5 million illegal guns are held in Greece, a ministry official taking part in drafting the bill told Kathimerini. Of these, about 800,000 are hunting guns, of which 600,000 are on the island of Crete. Meanwhile, licenses have been issued for about 1 million hunting guns and another 3,500 issued for personal security purposes. The number of gun licenses issued declined from 1,315 in 2002 to 150 in 2004. This year so far only about 70 have been given out. The new law is aimed at providing an appropriate framework but without creating problems for legal gun ownership or allowing illegal weapons to get out of control altogether. Before the law is passed, gun owners will be given an opportunity to declare them; for hunting and firing-range rifles by the end of this year and collectors’ items by the end of August 2006. Ministry officials say there will be no extensions to these deadlines, and that the new law will impose much harsher penalties on violators. According to a record kept by the Greek police, the opening of the borders with Balkan countries in the early 1990s saw a rapid increase in the number of weapons smuggled into the country. Albania and Bulgaria continue to be the source of most illegal weapons of all kinds arriving in Greece; most Kalashnikov rifles here come from the looted army camps of Albania. The biggest market is in Crete, where bearing guns is still a strong tradition. This inflow from Eastern Europe in recent years has made the acquisition of a gun relatively easy and cheap. Police say an old revolver can be bought for as little as 300 euros. The new law being drafted by the ministries for Defense, Foreign Affairs, Economy, Shipping, Agriculture and Culture, with input from the Hunting Confederation and firing-range associations, also attempts to incorporate directives from the European Union and observations from the United Nations. One of the main aims in drafting the law is to abolish the more illogical clauses in the existing law, some of which verge on the absurd. As a Public Order Ministry official pointed out, someone carrying a box cutter is considered to be armed, since there is no distinction between sharp objects and those actually defined as weapons. Yet air-gun kits are on the market that can be legally sold to anyone over 18.