Norwegian police have seized more than 1,000 illegal weapons and charged as many as 20 people in one of their largest gun crackdowns ever. Nationwide raids resulted in confiscation of everything from automatic weapons to revolvers, pistols and ammunition.
Norwegians often refer derisively to how guns flourish among the public in the US, but Norway also has a high per capita amount of weapons in addition to being a weapons producer. Weapons are found in many households in Norway, for hunting or civil defense purposes. Far from all of them are legally registered, and that’s what prompted the police raids carried out so far this year.
Newspaper Ringerikes Blad reported Wednesday that between 500 and 600 weapons were seized from just two men who were both held in custody from April to August.
An investigation launched in January led police in the small city of Hønefoss, northwest of Oslo, to uncover illegal storage, sales, handling and import of weapons.
“The police are taking this case very seriously,” investigation leader Geir Hermansen told Ringerikes Blad.
The sheer number of illegally held weapons in Norway has sounded alarms around the entire country. Among weapons already seized are AG3s, MP5s and other “machine guns,” according to police. Some were ready to be used, others that could “easily be made functionable,” with Hermansen warning that many of them would be “extremely dangerous” in the hands of the wrong person.
That’s why the raids were carried out quietly in recent months. “We didn’t want to stir any fears in the local areas (where the weapons were found),” prosecutor Hans-Petter Aasen in Hønefoss told Ringerikes Blad.
He wouldn’t comment on how those arrested managed to acquire so many weapons, pending results of the police investigation. Hermansen said that special interests, money and the value of the weapons likely played a role. “In some cases, a hobby seems to have gone too far,” Aasen said.
Among those charged are people with earlier police records and others with no prior criminal activity. They come from all over the country with one of two central players based in Ringerike, Aasen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
He said “many” police districts have been involved in the investigation, with assistance from both the state’s white collar crime unit Økokrim and state investigative agency Kripos.
All those charged face prison terms of up to six year. The defense attorney for one of them told NRK that his client had admitted being guilty of weapons storage that was “not in line” with regulations. “He’s been a weapons collector since he was young, and it got a bit out of control,” said defense attorney Ole Petter Drevland. Another defense attorney for one of the two main defendants declined comment on his client’s behalf.