UPDATED: Norway’s new justice minister, Tor Mikkel Wara of the Progress Party, is seeking permanent permission from Parliament to allow some police officers to be armed while on patrol in Oslo. He made the re-arming request to Parliament Thursday night, after a meeting with police during the day.
The hastily called session was announced by the president of the Parliament, Tone Wilhelmsen Trøen, early Thursday afternoon, with little if any information as to why Wara was seeking the re-arming so suddenly. “It’s very unusual to do this with just a few hours’ warning,” MP Petter Eide from the Socialist Left party (SV) told state broadcaster NRK. Eide is a member of the Parliament’s justice committee.
Wara has been meeting with Oslo police after a string of violent episodes in the Norwegian capital tied to gangs and sales of narcotics. Police have been criticized for having lost control over gangs that are known for extortion, violence and drug dealing.
Wara told Parliament, however, that the permanent re-arming request was part of efforts to improve preparedeness against terrorist attack. He announced that he already had approved a temporary request from police in Oslo to allow those on patrol to carry arms when the police chief deemed it necessary. That followed approval from Parliament that allows arming at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen and some public buildings.
Opposition to any permanent arming of police remains. Eide, for example, said SV had no objections to arming police at times of concrete terror threats. SV opposes any general or permanent arming of police, even in selected areas.