Lithuanian lawmakers are to consider liberalising restrictions regarding the private ownership of fully-automatic firearms.
The move comes after two members of the country’s ruling Homeland Union party proposed a bill relating to all conscripted individuals who have completed initial military training.
It would allow such individuals to acquire and privately keep category A firearms, including weapons capable of full automatic fire.
As of writing, only professional soldiers or members of Lithuania’s Riflemen’s Union are allowed to keep such weaponry. There are thought to be only seven automatic guns in legal private ownership across the entire country.
The two MPs behind the bill are Paulius Saudargas and Laurynas Kasčiūnas, who is also chair of the National Security and Defence Committee.
Justifying the proposal, Saudargas said the lifting of certain restrictions would boost private firearms ownership in Lithuania and further protect it from possible Russian invasion in light of the war in Ukraine.
“Everyone must defend their country,” Saudargas said. “It is everybody’s business … not just for the army, for professionals with service weapons somewhere on the front.
“The whole of society is joining the fight.”
The MP also claimed that the loosening of firearms laws would help the country’s private arms market financially and thus help cut the costs for any would-be gun owner.
“We want to encourage importers, arms dealers, to be able to offer a wider range of products to a potentially wider circle of buyers,” he said.
“Then, perhaps, prices would be more competitive.”
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This would not be the first change made to Lithuania’s gun laws in the hopes of tightening national defence, with the country having already banned Belarusian and Russian citizens who are not Lithuanian nationals from owning firearms entirely.
Efforts to relax gun-control for others in the country have provoked alarmed reactions from some European Union publications, however. Euronews ran an article warning of a rise in “US-style mass shootings” in the country.
Such fears have been stoked by left-leaning politicians in the country. The leader of Lithuania’s Union of Democrats Saulius Skvernelis predicted the proposal if passed would lead to a spike in gun crime.
“I believe, we are rapidly walking towards the situation we see almost every day across the Atlantic with liberal gun policies,” he said.
Saudargas played down such concerns, saying that even under the proposed law changes the country would still have far tighter restrictions on the vast majority of firearms than those in the US.
“To get hold of a category A weapon, you’d need a special permit, you have to meet medical criteria, that goes without saying,” he said.
“It is up to the medics to judge if a person has an adequate understanding of the world to be granted a permit for such a weapon.
“Checks are to be repeated every five years, and if one does not pass the medical test, the permit is revoked. So, gun control is strict.”
Arūnas Marcinkevičius, the president of the Lithuanian Gun Owners Association, also played down fears surrounding the proposed law changes. He suggested that the new rules would be closer to Swiss-style regulations than those in the US.
“Their [Swiss] weapon-keeping conditions are very strict,” he said.
“It all comes down to how it is controlled.”
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