I’m from Baltimore, a city known to the rest of the world thanks to two TV shows: ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ and ‘The Wire’. We have a lot of handguns. Ironically, fireworks are illegal, so on New Year’s, we fire our handguns into the sky. In Iceland, the opposite is the case: you can set off as many fireworks as you please on designated holidays, but you won’t find any handguns.
This isn’t to say that there are no guns in Iceland. There are: you can legally buy and own hunting rifles and shotguns. But unlike America, where you can buy these firearms from pretty much any big-box store, in Iceland there are strict regulations in place for buying a rifle. You have to pass a background check, and your gun ownership is registered with the government. You don’t actually have “the right” to own a gun; it’s considered a privilege, and an expensive one at that.
The Icelandic police, as many know, do not carry guns. The Viking Squad—Iceland’s answer to SWAT—do have semi-automatic guns, and members of the Icelandic Coast Guard carry handguns, but you’ll never seen their weapons on dry land.
Be that as it may, 2007 figures show that 23.5% of Icelandic households have at least one firearm. Despite this, annual gun-related deaths in Iceland have never risen out of the single digits. That being the case, it is perhaps a good thing that handguns are something you will find missing in Iceland.