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Gun control laws to be tightened up (Updated: adds justice minister)

A committee made up of the police, military, welfare and game services has come up with eight proposed changes, which include two amendments to the law in a bid to stop violent or unstable people obtaining firearms licences.

“The cabinet of ministers, with its decision, has approved the strategy and measures that were decided at a ministerial meeting involving the participation of the involved ministries, the police and the general staff of the national guard, during which even a plan of action has been drawn up,” said justice minister Ionas Nicolaou on Monday.

He said the cases were now defined in which a gun permit could be rescinded from people who, for example are judged by conditions prevailing at the time, or their family situation, or the state of their mental health.

Nicolaou said “such cases are domestic violence, the possibility or probability of use of the weapon for committing offences, something that can be judged through an assessment of the psychological condition of the gun owner or even a situation that may prevail in a home.”

Faced with an increase the use of firearms for illegal purposes, an inter-ministerial committee made up of the ministers of justice, interior and health appointed the four-member committee instructing it to study the problem and suggest recommendations for procedures to prevent possession of guns by people who display violent behaviour

Two meetings held on March 30, 2015 and November 19, 2015, resulted in the recommendation of the eight measures which in turn took the form of a memorandum of action, to be approved by the cabinet for their promotion and application.

The measures include the social services informing the police of any findings which have to do with instances of violence in families with any connection to gun ownership.

Mental health services, private psychiatrists and psychologists to also report to police people displaying violent behaviour or psychological problems who possess firearms.

The game fund, which carries out checks on hunters, is to inform the police of persons they come in to contact with for the purpose of checks if they display violent behaviour or threaten to use the weapon.

Local authorities are also to inform police of residents in their community who display aggressive behaviour that may include use of violence or threatening its use, or who are judged problematic or dangerous to their families or others.

According to the proposed changes, if transfer of ownership of a firearm is demanded, this cannot be to a first or second degree relative living in the same household.

Once the system is set up, every state or private entity taking part will appoint a contact person for the better coordination and faster transfer of information for a more efficient and timely reaction.

The committee also suggested that people found guilty of offences connected with violence in the family, not be allowed to hold a firearm licence and that the chief of police be given the right to stop the issue of a firearms licence at his discretion. This would be used, not only for people found by a court of government doctor to be a danger to themselves or public order and safety, but also to persons judged dangerous to others.

The last two suggestions for preventing the commission of crimes by using weapons, will need modifications to the current legislation while other recommendations leave unclear the procedure that will be used by the staff in three government departments as well as private psychiatrists and psychologists to inform the police for violence perpetrated by a licensed gun holder.

As things stand today, procedures are observed mainly in criminal cases where firearms are used or threats for their use are made. In these cases, the weapons are seized by a court order or the person involved has his firearm licence revoked.

It is hoped the recruitment of government agencies, local authorities and private mental health professionals will fill the gap in the law, which at the moment cannot act against an individual who may be danger, but whose actions have not broken any laws.

The police and national guard – which issues G3 rifles to reservists that they keep at home – inform each other on matters relating to the display of criminal behaviour of reservists or serving soldiers such as reports by citizens of threats, or proven violence in the home by them.

The national guard is also obliged to send police data on a regular basis concerning soldiers who have been declared unfit to serve, with their having to go before a medical examining board before being allowed to hold a licence for a hunting gun.

 



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