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Norwegian Police Will No Longer Carry the Guns They Don’t Use

Norwegian police have carried guns since late 2014. They will soon go back to keeping them in their cars.

Journalists and an armed policeman stand outside the Oslo court house where the Norwegian gunman behind the twin attacks in July, Anders Behring Breivik attends his third court appearance on September 19, 2011. Prosecutors are expected to ask the court to prolong for eight weeks the detention of Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to the July 22 attacks that left 77 people dead. AFO PHOTO / SCANPIX NORWAY / Erik Johansen (Photo credit should read ERIK JOHANSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists and an armed policeman stand outside the Oslo court house where the Norwegian gunman behind the twin attacks in July, Anders Behring Breivik attends his third court appearance on September 19, 2011. Prosecutors are expected to ask the court to prolong for eight weeks the detention of Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to the July 22 attacks that left 77 people dead. AFO PHOTO / SCANPIX NORWAY / Erik Johansen (Photo credit should read ERIK JOHANSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

On Nov. 13 last year, Norway announced that its police officers would no longer carry firearms in holsters and would instead go back to keeping them in their patrol vehicles.

But that night, Islamic State terrorists launched a series of coordinated attacks in Paris, killing 130 people and rattling capitals from London to Oslo. The initial reason for arming the 6,000 strong police force in 2014 was in response to heightened fears of terrorism in Europe. Norway intended to disarm in November when the terrorist threat seemed to have subsided, but the Paris attacks compelled Norwegian officials to allow the police to hold onto their guns.

Now, nearly three months later, Norway plans to once again ban police from carrying weapons outside their cars. That means Norwegian police will be even less likely to use their weapons than they already were. In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, Norwegian police only fired their weapons twice, causing no injuries or deaths.

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In fact, between 2002 and 2014, Norwegian police only killed two people with guns. That’s compared to the at least 1,000 believed to have been killed by police in the U.S. in 2015 alone. (Norway’s population is also significantly smaller than that of the U.S., with only around 5.1 million residents versus the United States’s 319 million.)

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As of 2014, only three people had even been injured by Norwegian police gunshots since 2011.

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In Norway, there are 31.3 firearms for every 100 people, but many of those wielding the weapons are hunters whose access to guns is strictly monitored. The U.S. has more firearms per capita than anywhere else in the world, with 88.8 per 100 people as of 2007.

Ahead of the planned disarmament in November, some police reportedly argued they felt safer when armed. But Odd Reidar Humlegard, the national police commissioner, said the arming in 2014 was in response to “an extraordinary situation.”

“As things stand now, our laws do not allow for systematic arming,” he said.

Photo Credit: ERIK JOHANSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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