130,000 firearms in Malta (and two rocket launchers)

By the end of 2019 there were 129,423 firearms registered in Malta an increase of nearly 27,000 in just two years

Two rocket launchers, 28 cannons, four mortars and 565 general purpose machine guns... This is not the sum of the arsenal in the Armed Forces of Malta’s inventory, but only a small fraction of registered firearms in private hands.

Because by the end 2019, there were 129,423 firearms registered, an increase of nearly 27,000 in just two years. In 2017, there were 102,610 firearms registered in private collections.

More than 66,000 of the registered firearms are shotguns used for hunting and target shooting, but a number of items stand out.

Amongst these are the two rocket launchers and 28 cannons, but also 11 walking sticks concealing firearms, four hand cannons, 1,023 tactical shotguns and 18,992 pistols.

Other modern firearms also include 705 submachine guns, 17,241 rifles, 7,552 revolvers and 42 assault rifles.

More historic items in private collections include 115 black powder revolvers, 19 blunderbusses, 217 flintlock muskets, 459 flintlock pistols, 221 muskets, 1,391 muzzle-loading guns and 763 percussion cap pistols.

An increase in the number of people getting registered as license holders without necessarily buying a firearm, has been recorded in the past three years. This is because under the Arms Act, as in the case of a driving license, it is the individual that gets licensed, not the firearm.

Also on the increase is the number of people attending shooting ranges even without holding a license.

Unlicensed visitors can undergo a range and firearm safety tutorial and go on to live shooting on the ranges. One range owner told MaltaToday

he had recorded a marked increase in the number of day bookings by individuals and groups who are not licensed. Pistol shooting is the most popular among unlicensed visitors, probably because it is the easiest to master, as well as having more facilities available than other firearms.

MaltaToday has learnt that there are some 39,143 registered firearm licence-holders in Malta, many of them having more than one licence.

The Arms Act of 2005 and the Arms Licensing Regulations of 2006 define various categories of arms and the activities for which they may be kept and/or used. The act focuses on the licence holder and not on the firearm, and insists on the mandatory membership and endorsement of a club before one can apply for a licence.

The Target Shooter Licence A allows for both the keeping and use of firearms with rifled barrels, such as pistols, rifles and machine guns, for target shooting sport only. The Target Shooter B Licence caters for target shooting with firearms that had already been allowed under the old Arms Ordinance, such as shotguns, air guns and muzzle loaders.

Holders of Collector Licence A can keep any number of firearms manufactured before 1946 or which are considered to be rare, artistic or historical. They can also keep up to 10 handguns and rifles which are of post-1945 manufacture as well as any number of shotguns, muzzleloaders and air guns.

The Collector Licence B is for those who were already licensed under the previous Arms Ordinance for collection purposes only.

Before a person can apply for a firearm licence, they must join a shooting or collectors club for training.

The club must then issue a recommendation letter for the applicant to present to the police, who will then check the applicant’s records and refer him to a Weapons Board test to verify the applicant’s knowledge of firearm safety and the Arms Act (Chapter 480) and related ordinances.

Only if an applicant successfully completes each step of the process, is he then issued with a target shooter or collector licence.

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