Norwegian Language Blog

Gun Politics in Norway Posted by on Aug 3, 2011 in Culture, Nature, Uncategorized


After Anders Breivik  open fired on innocent victims on the island of Utøya, many people have expressed their belief that Norway´s gun laws should be stricter.  Until guns are banned completely from the public, rules and regulations can always be stricter. We in the U.S. have had so many instances of school shootings and other violent domestic terrorist attacks involving guns, it only seems natural to assume that the first course of action in trying to prevent another Utøya like situation would be to tighten gun laws.

Having had conversations about hunting and shooting as a sport with Norwegians, I have to step out and applaud Norway for the gun laws that they currently have in place.  When I lived in Tromsø, I accepted an invite from a friend I had just met to shoot clay pigeons at a public range.  It isn´t every day a young American woman shows up at the Tromsdalen Shooting range, so I naturally had a few conversations with the local members.  They asked if I had to carry an sort of license with me.  I explained that I didn´t have to, but I did have my little orange business-card sized ´Firearms Certificate´which states that I passed the short course that I took.  They asked how involved the course was and what else is required to purchase a gun in the U.S.

These Norwegian men were surprised to hear that all I had to do was take an afternoon course in the field and a relatively short online test.  They asked, `You mean you don´t have to apply with the police to get approval to purchase a gun?´  I explained that the police have essentially nothing to do with consumers buying shotguns in the U.S.   The rules are different for different types of guns, but we all know that gun laws in the U.S. are very loose when compared to other countries.

Many Norwegians hunt participate in competitive sport shooting and therefore own guns.   As mandatory civil service is still in place, many Norwegian men are also active in the military.  Very few people own guns for self defense.  Semi-automatic and bolt action rifles, as well as shotguns are the most popular kinds of guns owned by most.  Automatic weapons are only legal if they are collectors items and will not be used to shoot.  It is a felony to modify a rifle into an automatic rifle.

To obtain a firearms license, one must first identify a reason for needing a gun.  Hunters must complete a 30 hour, 9 session course (includes firearm theory, firearm training, wildlife theory, and environmental protection training) and pass a written multiple choice exam. Once the exam is passed, the applicant may enroll in the hunters registry and obtain a license.  Then, the individual must bring the license to the police station and apply for a permit to purchase a gun.  The police will review the applicants background and determine if he or she are suited to own a gun.  If approved, the applicant takes the form to a gun store (keeping in mind that you cannot buy guns and ammo at KMart like we can in the U.S.) and purchase a gun.

Sports shooters do not have as many restrictions on purchasing a gun, but the course is much more involved.  The written exam is shorter, but the field requirements are greater.  A sports shooter must show regular attendance and compete at an approved gun club for 6 months.  Until this 6 month period is over, the sports shooter must use the guns provided at the gun club.

Gun storage laws are strict and police can randomly check homes for proper gun storage at any time.

There has been no evidence to my knowledge that Anders Breivik was granted any gun rights that the law doesn´t permit.  I am not saying that Norway shouldn´t tighten gun laws even futher than they already are.  However, I think it´s important to be aware of the process in place to obtain a license to purchase a gun in Norway.  While it was nice to not have to jump through hoops for me to obtain a hunting license and get a gun, I would have gladly done so knowing that it may decrease the liklihood of criminal acts, or at least make it much harder to commit them.

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Jan:

    Why do you write the Island of the Out Island ? Do Americans also write the Island of Manhattan Island ?

  2. Eric Swanson:

    It seems that there was a hole in the gun laws in that Breivik was able to buy hollow point bullets in 30 bullet clips from USA. Perhaps Norway should take a close look at the pistol shooting clubs and ask if these skills are really needed among the civilian population. As for USA, I would be happy if we could just get gun ownership laws that are as strict as they are in Norway.

    • Oly:

      @Eric Swanson Hollow point bullets at what we use in Norway for hunting — they are mandatory. And he bought all his ammunition in Norway — all of it. he also used a rifle, a type of rifle legal in 40 developed democracies, including Canada, and still legal what does it have to do with pistols?

  3. Lydia:

    No, but in the US we wouldn’t necessarily know that Utøya contained the word “island”. Perhaps it would have been better to say “Utøya (Out Island)”, but the way she put it is fine, in my opinion, considering the main demographic of this blog seems to be people who don’t actually know Norwegian. 🙂