According to unofficial data, about 350 000 Bulgarians are legal owners of firearms. However, the actual number of Bulgarians who have a gun is much higher. Maybe 80 or 90 thousand Bulgarians have illegal firearms, which can be a serious prerequisite for crimes. Are the gun control laws in Bulgaria strict enough?
All Bulgarian citizens of legal age have the right to own firearms if one has not been charged with a crime and is psychologically healthy. But if you want to buy a shiny gun, you will have to fill in a number of documents and experts from the Interior Ministry will decide if they are to let you have it. One of the requirements is that one passes safety training for gun use. You will have to pass an exam and you will have to consult a psychologist. After you have passed all the procedures, the Ministry will allow you to buy a gun, which you will have to register and take it to the police for ballistic fingerprint examination. This way if you commit a crime with your gun it will be easily identified. That is why in most cases criminals use illegal or stolen weapons. Illegal production of firearms has also become a profitable business. “Most of the murders in Bulgaria are committed with illegal firearms. Our business is absolutely legal,” Miroslav Piralkov, a consultant in a gun shop in Sofia, says. According to him the current gun control laws are good enough. Mr Piralkov remembers the beginning of the 90s when the first private gun shops in Bulgaria opened. People then entered the shops as if they were entering a museum, not believing they can also own a gun. “Now people know that the law gives them the right to buy a gun,” Miroslav says and adds:
“All kinds of people come to our shop. Some of them are just curious, especially the boys. Some have watched a movie on the TV and come to see the guns. Old people come to buy gas guns. Some men buy defense sprays for their wives. A big number of hunters also come to our shop. There are about 150 000 hunters in Bulgaria. They mostly buy rifles. Revolvers are popular among our clients. Pneumatic guns are also a hit among customers. They are often used for fun and for playing paintball.”
Generally, Bulgarians do not like firearms and see them as potential danger, the results of a study show. Many Bulgarians think keeping a firearm at home is dangerous for their children. Others think the legal procedures are too complicated. In comparison to other European countries Bulgaria is at the bottom of the gun owners’ chart. In comparison to Germany for example, buying a machine gun in Bulgaria is illegal. All kinds of silencers are also forbidden. ”In Bulgaria when a murder happens, the government usually starts to think of a way to make gun control stricter, but criminals use illegal weapons and no matter how you control the legal sale of guns, the number of crimes stays the same,” Miroslav Piralkov says.
But what makes people buy guns?
“It is the desire,” Mr Piralkov says. “There are a number of collectors. However, most people buy guns for self-defense, saying they better have a gun at home then relying only on the police. Some buy guns for sport purposes and go to licensed shooting grounds to have fun.”
English: Alexander Markov