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Interview – Vitor Teixeira: Current state of gun laws in Portugal – even pepper spray licences are becoming unobtainable

Vítor Teixeira is the president of Portuguese cartridges collectors association (APCM), a long time sport shooter, firearms cartridges collector, a teacher of firearms ballistics, an expert and teacher of Portuguese “gun laws”, a consultant of Portuguese Courts on issues related to firearms and a police firearms instructor.

In the past months he became known as one of the most vocal critics of the Portuguese law proposal introduced in order to implement the EU Gun Ban.

In the second part of exclusive interview with zbrojnice.com, Vítor talks in detail about the current firearms legislation of Portugal and effective ban on self-defense means.


Rozhovor v češtině si můžete přečíst zde: Rozhovor – Vitor Teixeira: Současný stav zbraňové legislativy v Portugalsku – dokonce i povolení na pepřové spreje se stávají nedostupnými

Zbrojnice.com is a Czech language web that deals with practical, legal, cultural and social issues of civilian firearms ownership. This interview was conducted in English and thus you can read it also in original language version below.


Interview with Vítor Peixeira:

  1. The gradual erosion of gun rights in Portugal since 2006
  2. Current state of gun laws in Portugal – even pepper spray licences are becoming unobtainable
  3. Firearms & Vítor Teixeira, Portuguese spot-shooter, police instructor and court expert on firearms

Legal ways of obtaining firearms

If a Portuguese citizen decides today that they want to get a firearm legally, what are their options?

It depends on the use and purpose of that firearm. In our law, there are several distinct licenses and those involve different obligations and different restrictions, but all have some requisites in common.

The major licenses are:

  • Hunting;
  • Sport shooting – excludes hunting;
  • Collecting – excludes hunting and only allow shooting in very special events;
  • Self-defense which is separated in two classes.
    • B-1 which allows only either a 6,35mm Browning caliber pistol, a 32 S&W Long or a 32 H&R Magnum caliber revolver (max 2 firearms in total).
    • B which is only for military and police personnel, members of the Government and of the parliament, Judges and State Prosecutors.
  • Both a B-1 and B license excludes any other uses except defense; however the owner of certain B class firearms can request a special authorization to use it in sport events. Only FMJ ammunition is allowed and under the EU Gun Ban implementation even less lethal ammunition such as rubber bullets will be banned
  • House detention. This special license is typically for people that inherit firearms and don’t have license to use them in any of the above mentioned activities. Firearms must be kept inside a vault or a safe house depending on their number. Guns cannot leave home and are forbidden from use in any circumstances. Owner is even banned from having any ammunition that could be fired in any of firearms held under this license.

All licenses are very expensive, especially considering Portuguese standards. For example the license for home detention costs 50 € for each firearm and has to be renewed after 10 years. The license for a B1 defensive pistol or revolver, costs more than 300 € because it must include authorizations, a course for gun owners, and some paperwork. It is valid for 5 years and after that it has to be renewed the same way.

All licenses demand valid justifications to own a firearm. In the case of sport, hunting and collecting, that means the applicant has to pass a courses, practice and be examined by official shooting authorized shooting association. Besides that the owner of licenses for sport shooting must participate in a series of sport competitions each year. Failing to do so will lead to the confiscation of the license and the firearms only can be kept with the “house detention” license.

All licenses also demand a medical certificate, a clean criminal record and  certification that applicant meets conditions for safe keeping.

The most difficult to obtain is the self-defense license. In fact, there was not a single new license issued for the purpose of self defense in 2018, while only 190 were renewed. The authorities simply refuse applicants’ justifications for needing a firearm for self-defense.

Legally impossible effective self-defense

What are your safe storage laws? Is it possible to own a firearm for hunting or sport shooting and have it “on hand” for self-defense at least at home?

No, absolutely not! It is strictly forbidden to use a firearm in a different use than that one it was licensed for. In addition, all firearms must be kept in safe storage, without ammunition, with safety lockers or inside a vault or safe house. During transportation to the shooting range or anywhere else, firearms must be clear of ammunitions and carried inside a closed container with a trigger lock or disassembled.

Even the few ones that have license for defensive use of pistol or revolver are not allowed to use them in any act of defense of their property. Legally, they can be used only in extreme cases when their lives are directly threatened and only if the police are not capable of providing protection in that given moment.

Self-defense license holder can defend from attack that is ongoing with use of a lethal weapon and directly threatening their life. Even then, the legal firearm owner is only allowed to aim at “non-lethal areas of the human body” of the attacker.

I think this demonstrates the absurdity of Portuguese gun laws. Nevertheless, EU Gun Ban proposal goes even further.

 

OK, so self-defense firearm license is impossible to get. Those who have them can have only ineffective caliber firearms and can legally use it in a way that is impossible to fulfill. So what options of means for protection are there in Portugal other than firearms?

Legally, in Portugal defense against ongoing crime is seen as police-only matter.

Even if someone has a wooden stick under the seat of their car for purposes of protection, the police can treat that as a forbidden weapon and such person may face up to 4 years in prison.

Not only self-defense firearms licenses are now unavailable, but even licenses to carry a pepper spray are almost impossible to obtain. The few ones that have those licenses can only carry inefficient versions of pepper spray. Again, they cannot use or carry them legally in most places due to the “article 89” [see previous part of the interview].

No change in sight

Is general public content with the inability to be armed for personal protection? How about gun owners? Is there any movement for a change in this regard?

The general public has been intoxicated with Government and anti-gun lobby propaganda. The mass media goes along with the propaganda and plays an important role in the dissemination of misconceptions.

This is the result of decades of lies and manipulation of public opinion.

 

Do you follow developments in countries like Spain, Switzerland or the Czech Republic where public is fighting against introduction of illegitimate restrictions?

Yes I certainly do. I’ve been a following European legislation regarding firearms closely since 1996 and the current European Directive is one of the most important landmarks in this history of legislative acts. Unfortunately, it is a disgraceful landmark in the evolution of the European legislation.

The Directive is based in misconceptions, wrong preconceptions and even lies. I can accept that very few members of the European Parliament are defending what they truly believe is fair. But the fact is those where influenced by a vast and powerful anti-gun lobby that uses lies, manipulation of public opinion and propaganda to pass their agenda.

I am not in favor of unchecked gun ownership nor am I in favor of the proliferation of firearms in the hands of those who do not meet well defined and fair criteria. But I certainly am not in favor of a Directive that considers and treats the law abiding citizens as common criminals.

Ineffective pepper sprays subject to unobtainable permit

If you need a special license even for pepper sprays in Portugal – are these difficult to obtain? For comparison – in the Czech Republic pepper sprays are not only legal, but even recommended by authorities for women and elderly to carry. If a girl or a woman wants to carry a self-defense tool in Portugal, what are her options?

Pepper and CS sprays are considered as “forbidden weapons”. They can be legally possessed and carried only by holders of “E class license”.

That license only allows tear gas sprays that have pepper and the concentration of the active substance cannot be higher than 5%. All other active substances, such as CS, are absolutely illegal.

“E Class License” costs 75 € plus a tax of 6 €. Applicant must have clean criminal record, provide proof of absence of mental issues. Then they have to justify that they actual need to have a spray for defense purposes. Most often the justifications are not accepted and applications are usually rejected.

Tear gas sprays are also good topic to demonstrate absurdity of Portuguese weapons laws. Let’s keep in mind that pepper spray is a defensive tool that does not actual lasting harm to the attacker.

But not only the license is very difficult to obtain, but the sprays allowed in Portugal are inefficient. I have tested probably all that are in the legal market and I as well as other experts found that the only way they are effective is if the user achieves a full direct hit into the eyes of the attacker. Meanwhile other sprays with higher concentrations or with different active substances are really effective. Nevertheless, the effective types of pepper spray are allowed only for police use.

Furthermore, the option to allow only O.C. is wrong also on technical and scientific basis. It is well documented and proven that O.C. is less efficient that C.S. and that C.S. is less toxic than O.C..

So in Portugal the law only allows, after obtaining difficult-to-get lincense, a tool that is less efficient and more toxic…

 

If you personally could pass changes to Portuguese gun laws, what would be the top three things you would change right away?

I am a co-author two public petitions that were sent to the Portuguese Parliament. I presented suggestions that, in my opinion, could correct the absurd mistakes and unfairness of the law we have right now and of the EU Gun Ban implementation proposal that is now being debated in the Parliament.

Basically, we proposed establishment of a work group that would include experts from various fields. Such work group would then make a full review of all laws passed since 2006 until now.

The aim would be to rewrite the weapons laws so that we can have a legal regime that is simpler, technically sustained by objective and correct legal definitions, and that respects our Constitution. I.e. remove all dubious and ambiguous norms and arbitrary prohibitions that we have right now.

That would be a major task. However Portugal cannot continue adding to gun laws that are already extremely complex, unfair to the law abiding citizen and which are full of subjective and ambiguous prohibitions.

The experts would present technically clean proposal. It would then be upon the Portuguese Parliament to consider political options. With this, we could have a clean sheet to work with instead of adding further amendments to already pretty poor gun laws.


Interviews:

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