AUF lobbies for more gun control

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Security will be higher than ever before when Norway’s Labour Party holds its national meeting this weekend, and the head of its youth organization AUF will be lobbying for another sort of security measure as well. Eskil Pedersen wants a ban on semi-automatic weapons, and accuses all of Norway’s political parties of a lack of leadership in toughening the country’s gun laws.

Eskil Pedersen, head of Labour's youth organization AUF, is lobbying for a ban on semi-automatic weapons. PHOTO: AUF

Eskil Pedersen, head of Labour’s youth organization AUF, is lobbying for a ban on semi-automatic weapons. PHOTO: AUF

Labour’s upcoming national meeting, held every other year, will be the party’s first since the terrorist attacks of July 22, 2011. The attacks ushered in a need for tougher security in what has been Norway’s open society, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Tuesday that all delegates to the meeting at the Oslo Kongressenter will, for the first time, have to enter through security checkpoints.

Pedersen and AUF itself were key targets of the attacks during the massacre on the island of Utøya, and he’ll be calling for a ban on the kind of weapons used by the terrorist. He also wants the government that Labour leads, at least until the next national elections in September, to sharpen the wording in its gun legislation, and to adopt better weapon registration.

“When you allow the kind of weapons which can be used to shoot many people without needing to be reloaded, you are not putting public safety high enough,” the Utøya survivor and ambitious young politician told newspaper Aftenposten last week.

Norway, with its long hunting traditions and extensive civil defense forces, has a high level of guns in private possession, approximately 1.32 million. That amounts  to 31.3 weapons per 100 inhabitants, ranking the country 11th of 178 countries for its rate of private gun ownership. Private possession of semi-automatic weapons is currently permitted under license and terrorist Anders Behring Breivik obtained his guns by lawful means, using them to fire illegal ammunition.

Breivik killed 69 people on Utøya within a short space of time, and Pedersen says it is possible that he might have claimed fewer victims if he only had the kind of weapons that take time to reload.

The government earlier gave notice that it will not propose any changes to Norway’s gun laws during its current period in office, which ends in September this year. In a report on the July 22 attacks that was submitted on March 20, however, government politicians moved in the direction of a ban on semi-automatic weapons, reserving some exceptions related to the sale of certain weapons.

The draft for the new Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) program states that the Labour Party “is assessing stronger rules and considering further measures for obtaining a better overview and control of weapons.” Pedersen claims this wording needs to be sharpened and made more concrete at the upcoming Labour Party National Congress.

Helga Pedersen, deputy leader of the party, agrees that current gun regulation needs to be tightened. She told Aftenposten that the party’s program committee is suggesting a reduction in the accessibility of those weapons that cause the greatest injury, such as semi-automatic, and that crime prevention is the primary consideration. But she argues that current regulations need to be formulated in such a way that it is still possible in Norway to continue with activities such as hunting and ski shooting.

Pedersen is open to an exception to the ban that would allow for semi-automatic weapons in competitive sports such as biathlon. “But ordinary people don’t need access to these kind of weapons,” he told Aftenposten.

Views and News from Norway/Elizabeth Lindsay

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