The Norwegian Parliament’s justice committee voted unanimously Tuesday morning to maintain a civilian police force that’s unarmed except under special circumstances. The government parties went along, even though they’d earlier supported calls for the police to carry weapons at all times.
Police around the country have been regularly carrying weapons for the past several months, in response to heightened threats of terrorist attacks in Norway. Several political parties including Labour, however, have been uncomfortable with the sight of police bearing hip holsters with loaded guns.
They’ve been agitating for an end to what was introduced as a temporary measure that’s been extended several times. Justice Minister Anders Anundsen of the conservative Progress Party has been accused of “sneaking in” general arming of the Norwegian police, who until last autumn were never allowed to make a practice of carrying weapons.
The conservative government coalition’s platform did “open up for general arming in police districts where the police themselves think it’s the best solution.” While cops on the beat have welcomed arming, even some police chiefs opposed the government’s position and the Liberal Party (one of the government’s support parties) tried to modify the platform with a proposal that sought to prevent “general arming.”
That’s what was up for debate in Tuesday, with some rather surprise support from both Anundsen’s Progress Party and the Conservatives, who lead the government. Members of both parties went along with advising the government “to maintain today’s practice with an unarmed police.” They also contended that the issue of whether to arm police should be decided by the Parliament and not through instructions issued by the government through the Justice Ministry, which is ultimately responsible for the police in Norway.
Anders Werp, a Member of Parliament for the Conservatives, insisted the government had not reversed its position: “We’re declaring now that we shall have unarmed police in Norway, but a majority on the committee also maintains the possibility for police to arm themselves in special situations.” That simply extends the current practice, Werp told state broadcaster NRK.