Bulgarian civilians ‘have more firearms than the army’

A gun control check has found that 211 486 people out of Bulgaria’s population of 7.3 million have firearm licences, meaning more than 300 500  guns – which officials said means that Bulgaria’s civilians are better-armed than the country’s army.

The Prosecutor-General’s office ordered a check-up on firearm licences and possession of firearms after a March incident in which a botched special police operation against a mentally ill man with a stash of firearms led to the death of a police officer and the wounding of three others.

It emerged that the man had held on the firearms long after the licences expired, with the authorities delaying doing anything about it.

Speaking to Bulgarian National Radio on May 21, deputy defence minister Ivan Ivanov directed a “friendly quip”, as he put it, as Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov over the fact that Bulgarian civilians had more weapons that the army.

Ivanov said that the army could perform its constitutional duties, “albeit with great difficulty”. For several years, Bulgaria’s military has been subject to continuing cutbacks, although there is currently pressure to re-examine this, especially in the light of the Ukraine crisis.

The investigation by the Prosecutor-General’s office found that the firearm licences of 111 people had expired but the weapons had not been confiscated.

The results of the investigation were announced on May 20 by Tsatsarov and deputy prosecutor-general Borislav Sarafor. “I did not expect a small number but the one received is surprising, to say the least,” Sarafor said.

Tsatsarov said that the number of physical and juridical persons possessing firearm licences was 211 486, and the number of firearms was 300 583. In turn, the total stock of ammunition, of all types and calibres, collectively allowed to those currently holding firearm licences added up to more than 48.71 million units.

Weapons for hunting added up to 180 958, sports rifles and pistols 3856, collectors’ weapons 2984, Tsatsarov said.

He said that following the investigation, 14 cases of penal proceedings had been initiated over illegal possession of firearms. Prosecutors were continuing to investigate the rest.

He said that 53 proposals had been sent to the Interior Ministry to improve the control of firearms.

The report of the investigation is also being sent, at the request of its chairperson, to parliament’s committee on internal order and public security.



The Sofia Globe staff

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