Justice Minister Anders Anundsen issued another extension this week that will allow Norwegian police to continue carrying arms at least until August 20. The extension came despite a shooting incident within a police station in Stavanger on Tuesday.
Anundsen was disturbed by the incident, in which a 24-year-old man jumped over the counter at the station, grabbed at the holster of a police officer on duty and managed to fire a shot. No one was injured, but Anundsen said on state broadcaster NRK’s nightly national newscast Dagsrevyen Wednesday that the incident was “most unfortunate,” and illustrates the “downside” of police carrying arms.
At the same time, however, Anundsen noted that orders for a heightened state of preparedness for a terrorist attack in Norway, issued last summer, had not changed and it was therefore necessary for police to be armed. “They’re among the potential targets” of a terrorist attack, Anundsen said, and need to be able to respond quickly and defend themselves.
Norwegian police traditionally have been unarmed and it’s politically controversial for them to carry weapons at all times. A recent study showed, however, that there actually have been fewer shots fired by police during the past year than in earlier years, when police could only arm themselves in emergency situations.