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Finland's Government Support for Civilian Shooting: A Step in the Right Direction the U.S. Should Take

Finland's Government Support for Civilian Shooting: A Step in the Right Direction the U.S. Should Take

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“Finland has announced it will open 300 shooting ranges in a bid to encourage citizens to take a greater interest in national defense,” the UK’s The Telegraph reports. “A member of Finland’s defense committee said the move would help Finns improve their shooting skills in the face of increased threats from Russia.” The goal is to keep skills learned in the military honed and provide enhanced deterrence to aggression.

“According to the Constitution of Finland every Finnish citizen is obligated to participate in national defense. Every male Finnish citizen aged 18-60 is liable for military service, and women can apply for military service on a voluntary basis,” the Finnish Defense Forces explains, asserting its conscription system of “capable units and a large reserve produced … a credible and pre-emptive threshold against potential use of force against Finland [that] are able to defend all of the country if the need arises.” The need has arisen before. Sharing 830 miles of border, the two countries have had their share of belligerent relations after Finland’s declaration of its independence following the Russian Revolution.

New World Encyclopedia notes that in the Finnish Civil War (1914-1918), the Social Democrat “Reds” were supported by Bolshevist Russia, and the “non-socialist, conservative-led Senate” “Whites” were assisted by the German Empire. The Imperial War Museums recalls the “Winter War” (1939-1940), when vastly outnumbered Finnish defensive forces were ultimately overrun by the Soviets, and the country was forced to cede 11% of its territory. And publishing house Brill recalls the “Continuation War” (1941-1944), where, for its part in joining with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union, even more territory was lost as dictated by the Allies and the Treaty of Paris.

Now, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and with Vladimir Putin warning of “problems” with Finland after it joined NATO last year, Finnish politicians once more see a need arising. As a member state of the European Union, Finland is included in the official list of “countries and territories unfriendly to Russia,” and the Finnish government has imposed entry restrictions on Russian citizens following both countries expelling specified diplomats. Should tensions escalate further, Finland adding to its forces with trained citizens with military backgrounds can only help.

“The number of active military personnel in the Finnish Defense Forces is small: about 19,000 plus the roughly 3,000-strong paramilitary Border Guard, which upon mobilization would be wholly or partly incorporated into the Defense Force,” War on the Rocks, “a platform for analysis and debate on strategy, defense, and foreign affairs” writes. “Due to the conscription system, however, the reserve is large. The fully mobilized field army is sized at 280,000, with several hundred thousand more reservists available to fill losses.”

“Finland is a country of hunters and gun enthusiasts. There are over 1.5 million licensed firearms and about 430,000 license holders in the country,” the Ministry of the Interior relates. “Responsibility for granting permits for the acquisition and possession of ordinary firearms rests with local police departments. The National Police Board grants, for example, trade permits for dealing in firearms; permits for commercial export, import, transfer and transit; permits for weapons collectors and permits for acquiring especially dangerous firearms.”

What kind of firearms?

In general terms, handguns (pistols and revolvers), rifles, including semiautomatics (AR-15-type rifles and semi-auto military-style rifles are commonly sold to civilians with a license), and shotguns. But again, these are all “permitted under license in some cases,” with restrictions and considerations including “a genuine reason to possess a firearm, for example hunting, target shooting, gun collecting, employment requirements,” background checks, character references, required training, and a limit on the number of guns.

Publicly carrying a firearm, openly or concealed, is prohibited, except for an authorized security assignment. And per a 2020 Time report, Finland is “one of 19 countries worldwide where police officers are typically unarmed and permitted to use guns only in exceptional circumstances.” Firearms News consulted with Jari Salo, a Finnish firearms owner known as a “history buff” by his friends in some specialized U.S. military circles, including Veterans of Vietnam and Special Operations MACV-SOG, Air Commandos, etc., to better understand the population’s defense preparedness.

“Well, the reservists are ready and willing, if Russkies are coming.  They will be a big help for the regular army,” Saro declared. “If there will be new shooting ranges opened, the main reason is just to be ready and practice. It is pretty similar to our Civil Guard that was active before the wars. Then, besides reservist and military, there are hunters.” 

“Everybody must have a license for the weapon one owns,” Saro noted. “There are shotguns, handguns, rifles etc. Most reservists do own a personal weapon but if there is a war, it is the army that gives the weapons to all soldiers. And they are fully automatic.”

“Many collectors do own legal weapons,” Saro recalled. “One good friend of mine has a German WWII machine gun (still working), grenade launchers, rifles, submachine guns. He has one of the biggest collections in Finland. All those weapons have been used by Finnish SS volunteers during WWII. But they would not be used in a conflict because they are museum items and not army owned, and it sets up the type of weapons which can be used in a conflict.

“Finns have bought more handguns for a long time now. Meaning people are ready if Putin makes a stupid movement,” Saro predicts. “We have 870,000 soldiers in the reserve and wartime active number is 280,000 soldiers. So, we can easily get almost one million soldiers to defend our country, and the volunteers are training every week now.”

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One of the reasons the populace isn’t clamoring to change that is because, as Statista documents, “Finland is known as a safe country, with crime levels among the working population being comparable to those of other Nordic countries. Property and traffic offenses are the most common types of crime, constituting the majority of all criminal offenses and violations.” For the past decade, “attempted manslaughter, murder, and killing” has averaged under 400 per year, and annual deaths have numbered under 100. As for Finnish Defense Forces, they are still using Sako RK 95 TP rifles and Sako/Valmet RK 62 rifles (the RK 62 are in reserve) but are now transitioning to Sako AR-15- and AR-10-type rifles, Saro confirmed.

There is no data to show the U.S. has such different results because of differences in carry laws. Indeed, permit holders have proven to be significantly more “law-abiding” than the general public, and with the advent of “permitless carry,” there have been no crime increases among citizens legally eligible to carry. Practically speaking, 100% of the violent crimes are committed by people who don’t qualify to carry under either scenario and whose chronic predatory behaviors show they really belong in custody.

The real difference is in populations. Per the World Factbook, “90.9% of the population has a Finnish background,” and the ethnic population consisting of “Finnish, Swedish, Russian, Estonian, Romani, [and] Sami.” Compare that to the U.S. where, per economist and author John Lott, “Murder isn’t a nationwide problem. It’s a problem in a small set of urban areas, and even in those counties, murders are concentrated in small areas inside them.” So, we can't neglect to look at demographics in those areas, not as a cause of violent crime, but as an indicator of populations most directly affected by and responsive to a continuing history of destructive government policies.

The Finns could very well recognize public carry and would no doubt enjoy the same results as recently demonstrated in the 29 states that have adopted so-called “Constitutional carry” (it’s not, really, because there are still restrictions, notably on “where”). Still, with Russian sabers rattling, Finland is better prepared than Ukraine was, when it handed out guns to untrained citizens.

“We have tens of thousands of reservists who practice national defense training voluntarily. That is part of our whole national defense, and it must be protected,” the Minister of the Interior said in a 2015 Euractive/Reuters report that noted the country “would demand some exceptions from planned European Union restrictions on the use of firearms, citing national defense needs.”

The U.S. would not only do well, but it would also be complying with its Constitutional obligation if it not only encouraged more participation and the opening of ranges, but did its duty “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia…”

Anything less is a deliberate undermining of what the Founders knew to be “necessary to the security of a free State,” that is, giving aid and comfort to enemies foreign and domestic. That no doubt explains why treasonous Democrats are trying to destroy the Second Amendment through citizen disarmament edicts and by banning training, tactics, and certain types of armed security.

The same worm is gnawing away at Finland. After a school shooting, a 2009 petition to ban handguns “except where needed on the job” gathered over 57,000 signatures and the attention of Parliament. 

“Who actually needs a small gun and why should some people be allowed to carry this type of weapon? These are used for killing people,” the useful idiot behind the website hosting the petition asked. “I thought others would share my view that really the only people who need these guns would be the police, security, and the army. No one else needs them.”

And in 2017, in response to European Union edicts (the “EU gun ban”), the Finns imposed controls licensing and restricting semiauto rifle and pistol magazines with a capacity of more than 10 and 20 rounds. Magazines with larger capacities require a separate permit.

For the prohibitionists, it will never be enough. Anyone who says “No one is talking about taking your guns” is talking about taking your guns. That’s the goal there and it’s the goal here, shared by the same types wherever citizen disarmament is demanded: would-be tyrants, subversives, and useful idiots.


About the Author

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. In addition to being a regular featured contributor for Firearms News and AmmoLand Shooting Sports News, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts onTwitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.


If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at FirearmsNews@Outdoorsg.com.




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