Following an attack at a tram stop at Utrecht’s 24 Okterberplein, which left three dead and five injured, Dutch officials, who had originally ruled out terrorism, have reconsidered it as a potential motive upon discovery of a letter from the shooter the next day, reports NU. Gokmen Tanis, 37, was arrested eight hours after the shooting.
With the attacker’s motives still in question, many have turned to Dutch laws on firearm ownership. Dutch gun culture is much stricter than that of the United States, and an event like the Utrecht Tram Shooting is significantly more unexpected an event than it is in the U.S. Unlike the United States, where gun ownership is virtually limitless, there are only two permissible reasons for gun ownership in the Netherlands: sports and hunting, according to The Dutch Review.
In the Netherlands, self-defense is not regarded as a viable reason for carrying a firearm, save for police officers and members of the armed forces. Those who wish to be armed must also undergo rigorous psychological testing and background checks before they are allowed to purchase any weaponry, says The Dutch Review. Regulations grow stricter based on events, such as the Alphen aan de Rijn Shooting in 2011, in which six people were killed by a gunman in the Ridderhof Mall, about 21 miles southwest of Amsterdam, says The Washington Post.
The process for obtaining a weapon in the Netherlands is complicated, as individuals are required to obtain permission from the police, says Steemit. In the case of a home invasion, it is illegal to use a firearm to deter intruders. However, if an intruder is armed, individuals are allowed to fire retaliatory shots. Hunting requires an additional hunting license, target shooting requires a minimum one-year-membership to a shooting club, and anything about a .22 caliber firearm requires additional years at the club.
Steemit goes on to say that no one person may own more than five guns. Additionally, those who would like to transport their own personal firearm need to dismantle the weapon in a case and carry it with paperwork and proper licensing. Concealed and open carry are strictly forbidden and any history of illegal activity is grounds for denial to a license. Violation of these laws can result in the revocation of license and confiscation of weaponry.
Even airsoft gun regulations are strict. Airsoft weapons are restricted to those older than 18 who are members of the National Dutch Airsoft Association (NDAA). Carrying a knife or pepper spray in public for self-defense is also illegal. According to Expatica, however, you may still carry a bow, crossbow, and pellet rifle not resembling a mainstream gun without any license. In the case of the Utrecht shootings, it is likely that Gokmen’s weapon was either smuggled or had been obtained legally through the proper channels, though which method used has not been determined, says the Dutch Review.
It is, however, unfair to compare the gun laws of the United States to the gun laws of Holland because of the difference in culture and legislature regard gun ownership. According to a small arms survey in the Graduate Institute of Geneva, the Netherlands has less gun deaths because there are less guns. There are 120.5 firearms per 100 United States inhabitants, but only 3.9 guns per 100 residents in the Netherlands.
Before anything else, there is great debate in the United States over the Second Amendment’s interpretation, specifically whether or not it applies to semi-automatic weaponry, says The Dutch Review. The Netherlands was also not formed under the same values of independence from a larger power.
According to NU, out of respect for the bereaved, no public decisions have been announced in regards to reform, but politicians are in talks of tightening protocol. Dutch Prime Minster Mark Rutte said that all automatic and semi-automatic weapons will now be classified as “police only” and that there will be “no reason to apply for this permit, as people will be denied.”