More and More Weapons in Circulation in Iceland

Vala Hafstað

The special unit of the Icelandic national police commissioner has been called out increasingly often in recent years to respond to armed individuals, National Police Commissioner Sigríður Björk Guðjónsdóttir tells mbl.is. In general, Icelandic police officers do not carry weapons.

“In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of weapons in circulation, especially knives,” she notes. “The police have been confiscating knives during routine traffic control.”

“We haven’t necessarily noted an increase in the number of incidents where weapons are used, but as we’ve seen in recent days, this is changing. People seem to be ready to use weapons.”

Until the year 2020, the armed special unit was called out about 200 times a year, but that year, as well as in 2021, they were called out about 300 times. Most of the time, the unit was called out to deal with people armed with knives. Calls due to firearms used to be between 50 and 65 a year, but last year, they numbered 87.

“The police monitor these matters closely, especially in light of how things are developing [in the countries] around us,” Sigríður states. “[The incidents] seem to be related to some sort of showdown or conflict, but are not aimed at the general public.”

Two shooting incidents in Reykjavík in the past week have shaken residents. Three people were injured in the shootings, at least one of them seriously.

“[Those cases] are not necessarily connected to organized crime. They could just as well be individuals who have a score to settle with one another,” Sigríður states.

Whenever weapons need to be carried by the police, the special unit is called out. Still, general police officers can be provided with weapons. Sigríður explains that recently, more police officers have received training in carrying weapons, but she adds there are no plans for general police officers to carry a weapon every day of the year.

She stresses that there is need for more police officers who have received education and training at the police academy and adds that the minister of justice has allocated funds for that purpose.

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