From Iceland — Police With Guns At All Future Public Gatherings In Iceland

Police With Guns At All Future Public Gatherings In Iceland

Published June 13, 2017

Elías Þórsson
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Armed Police At All Future Public Gatherings In Iceland

Police officers openly carrying guns will be present at the Secret Solstice Festival and at the June 17 independence celebrations, which both take place this weekend, reports RÚV.

One of the things that has always defined Iceland is the lack of gun violence and until now only the swat team has been the only part of the police force allowed to use firearms, and then only during special circumstances—such as when dealing with dangerous individuals wielding guns.

Haraldur Johannsessen, the head of the National Police Federation of Iceland, claims that the recent terrorism attacks in the UK have influenced the decision to have visibly armed police officers present at all large public gatherings in the future.

“I want to state that we are not increasing gun use, we are not arming more police officers,” Haraldur told RÚV. “We are just making the swat team more visible at large gatherings.”

The changing reality of guns

Last Sunday, the annual Colour Run took place in Reykjavík, and many participants were shocked to see heavily armed police officers present among the crowd. This has not been the reality in Iceland in the past, and the decision drew derision from many, with TV journalist Sölvi Tryggvason capturing the critical sentiment in a widely shared Facebook post.

“It is sad to see Icelandic police officers armed with guns at a family festival in the Reykjavík city centre,” Sölvi wrote. “This is absolute nonsense, this Americanisation will not make us a least bit safer. On the contrary, officers with guns will make us a more dangerous society. Guns call for more guns, fear breads violence.”

Wet dreams about armed police

Sölvi claims that many government officials have for a long time had “wet dreams” about bringing about more gun use in Iceland. He says that terrorism abroad is being used as a justification and that fear mongering helps push the agenda.

Sölvi has made many programmes documenting the criminal underworld and three years ago, he interviewed a senior police officer who spoke out against the idea of arming regular officers.

“If regular officers start carrying guns, it will only be a matter of time before we will have shootouts in Reykjavík,” the officer said.

Threat of terrorism

Yesterday, the National Security Council of Iceland met at Keflavík Airport to discuss changing police protocols—including the increase of weapons in the police’s arsenal.

“We fear that what has happened in our neighbouring countries will repeat itself here, and that is why we are making these changes,” Haraldur said. “From now on, the setup we had at the Colour Run will be repeated at future events.”

Sölvi, however, said that Icelanders should be proud of its unique lack of gun carrying police officers and that every time he went abroad and saw heavily armed officers he felt fortunate to having been born in Iceland.

“If I am to be protected by handgun wielding public employees, than I would rather be defenceless,” he wrote. “Let’s fight tooth and nail against this. No fucking guns!”

What is the possible outcome?

It is hard to say what impact visibly armed police officers will have on Icelandic society. Maybe it is necessary, maybe we should fear terrorism. But then again, we don’t have a military and are not involved in attacking people in faraway countries.

And I have to agree with Sölvi, when I go abroad I don’t feel safer around police officers with assault rifles, I don’t want to have those types of weapons anywhere near me. And there is logic in what he says. If the police arms itself, won’t the criminals just do the same?

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