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Thursday 18 December  
Smith & Wesson SW1911
Georg Schreuder Hes's picture
Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

Gun laws in the Netherlands

Published on : 9 April 2011 - 5:31pm | By Georg Schreuder Hes (Photo: Wikipedia)
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Following a shooting spree on Saturday by a lone gunman which has so far cost the lives of seven people, questions are bound to be asked about how the killer, who reportedly used a fully automatic weapon, got his gun and ammo. Outside the military, nobody in the Netherlands is allowed to own or shoot an automatic weapon. 

So what are the rules governing gun ownership in the Netherlands? Dutch gun laws are actually quite strict. Gun ownership is seen not as a right, but a privilege, with hunting and target shooting the only two legitimate reasons for owning a gun.

Self defence is not regarded as a valid argument for owning a gun, and only the police are allowed to carry a weapon. The main purpose of Dutch gun laws is to create a clear division between legal gun owners and people who use guns for criminal purposes. So far, the Dutch have been fairly successful in accomplishing this objective.

Gun owner
Aspiring sport shooters must join a gun club. Application for gun club membership involves a trial period, allowing the club to find out who they are dealing with, and a background check by the Justice ministry. A criminal record - particularly one involving violent incidents –would disqualify the applicant. Currently, there are about 42,000 gun owners registered with the Koninklijke Nederlandse Schutters Associatie (Royal Dutch Riflemen’s Association). All gun clubs are registered with the KNSA, which maintains close contact with the Justice ministry.

After one year of membership – during which period the new member can practice with guns owned by the club – members can apply for a gun permit and, if granted, purchase their first gun. After the second year of membership, gun owners can buy more guns, to a maximum of five. Guns and ammunition kept at home must be stored in separate strongboxes. The police regularly make house-calls to check whether the guns registered in a person’s name are actually in his possession and whether they are properly stored.

Permit revoked
Members of shooting clubs are only allowed to own guns which are suitable for use in KNSA-approved shooting matches which, for instance, rules out short-barreled revolvers and all automatic weapons which are unsuited to competitive shooting. Also, gun owners can only legally transport their guns and/or ammunition either from their home to their gun club, to a licensed gunsmith, to the police station (for inspection) or to a shooting match they hold an invitation to. All of the above via the shortest possible route.

As gun ownership is regarded as a privilege, almost any violation of the gun laws will automatically lead to the shooter’s gun permit being revoked. Involvement in a violent incident, or even driving a car under the influence of alcohol, will also result in the permit being revoked.

Unnecessary suffering
Another category of gun ownership involves guns used for hunting. There are about 28,000 hunters in the Netherlands, who must take an extensive and quite expensive one-year training course to obtain their hunter’s diploma before they can apply for a hunting licence. This will only be granted if they can prove they actually have access to hunting grounds, which in the densely-populated Netherlands can prove quite difficult to find. Hunters are allowed to take their rifles out into the fields, but the rules regarding safe storage apply to all legal gun owners, and must regularly practice their shooting skills at a rifle range to avoid unnecessary suffering of their prey.

Of course, just like its neighbours, the Netherlands has a serious problem with illegal weapons, most of which are owned and used by criminals. Many of these illegal arms are alarm guns illegally converted to firearms. Reliable information on the number of illegal firearms in the Netherlands is – for obvious reasons – difficult to come by, but recent research suggests that each year thousands of illegal weapons are smuggled into the Netherlands.




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BillyDean 10 June 2014 - 11:48am

After my nephew was caught by the police driving under the influence of alcohol he payed a huge fine and his gun permit was revoked. He was very mad about this but there was nothing he could do about it, sometimes we must pay for our mistakes. I agree that the gun regulation laws must be more severe to prevent unfortunate cases like the one that happened in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn, people that have gun permits should have safes like to make sure no one will have access to their guns.

Anonymous 25 July 2013 - 2:05am / Texas

Oh how I love Texas! In the hot summer, I carry light, a 38 snub and a 22 mag. In the winter, I prefer the 45 colt and a 357. The 38 has to be my favorite as it saved my life during an armed robbery last year. The robber almost paid with his life by an inch! Crazy, nope. I've no record, university grad, father, grandfather and ex-military who refuses to be a victim to thugs!

Anonymous? 22 May 2013 - 4:45am

lol @ Americans and their gun debates.

Such an immature country, on par with African countries in terms of gun control. So entertaining.

Anyway keep up the good work in the debates/massacress etc., the world needs the entertainment.

Anonymous 11 August 2013 - 9:43pm / United States

Last time I checked the largest massacre by a single gunman occurred in Norway after that the next one was commited by a south korean police officer in 1982 try doing some research and you will find that shootings like this are not limited to the United States

Anonymous 11 October 2013 - 5:26pm

Cops come by your house and check to make sure you're storing them correctly? If that's your idea of freedom you can keep your "mature" gun laws. We kicked that kind of tyranny's ass 250 years ago. That tyrrany has taken over the US AGAIN and it's about to have its ass kicked again.

Anonymous 24 July 2013 - 6:24am

I remember the USA saving your country and all of Europe, just reminding you.

Anonymous 1 August 2013 - 12:13am / usa

then you remember incorrectly.
It was the ALLIES that freed europe,not the U.S.,alone.
the "british" (and the armies of that empire) fought the nazis for YEARS before we even fired a single round at that enemy.
The "british" fought off the nazis during the "blitz" with little "help" from us.
At that point the republicans were still fighting roosevelt over passing the "lend lease act" and the agreement,at the time, provided relatively little aid.
The Luftwaffe (german airforce) NEVER recovered those loses to the end of the war.
The british and russians BOTH took massive casualties of orders of magnitude greater than us,grinding the nazi to guaranteed defeat (just a matter of time) before we even entered the european front or the african front for that matter.
The actions of the Marquis (belgian,french resistance) and the actions of the dutch resistance played a HUGE factor in winning that war.
Calling the war won by the united states ,alone, is complete hogwash.
Just like saying something is "as american as apple pie" when there are apple pie recipes dating back to the 1300's in Britain.

Truth Teller 6 April 2014 - 12:01pm / UK

You are very true.

Anonymous 13 April 2013 - 5:18am / USA


Anonymous 12 August 2011 - 2:14am / United States

If law abiding citizens were allowed to carry a handgun for self defense in the Netherlands,someone carrying a weapon could have stopped the gunman(Oslo) and saved lives on July 22,2011.So I guess some people would rather be unarmed while the criminals have guns ,(you should be able to defend yourself).If law abiding citizens are armed then they can save lives maybe even their own or someone else's.

Anonymous 18 December 2012 - 4:39pm / U.S.

You know Oslo is in Norway, not the Netherlands... so even if guns were legal in the Netherlands,it wouldn't have stopped anything in Oslo. And when have armed citizens stopped any mass shooting in the U.S.
If citizens were allowed to carry guns in the U.S. someone could have stopped the Aurora shooting... oh wait they are legal and nothing was stopped.

Anonymous 11 August 2013 - 9:52pm

12/11/12 Clackamas Town Center shooting Nick Meli a carry permit holder drew his glock 22 and aimed it at gunman Jacob Roberts who was attempting to clear a malfunction with his rifle when Roberts saw Meli aiming at him he ran away and shot himself rather than fix the rifle and keep killing innocents because he just wanted to kill unarmed people he didn't want to face someone willing to fight back.

The original thirteen upstarts 26 July 2013 - 3:38am / Freedom ills

Aurora was a gun free zone so only the criminal carried guns in to the theater, of the 4 nearby theaters he chose the only one that restricted guns. Pussys don't want to fight they want to hurt others without risk of confrontation. All 50 states now have CCW, CA, IL and DC have the strictest laws and the highest gun crimes in the nation. As time goes forward watch what happens to criminals, soon citizens will eliminate most threats and crime will fall. Law abiding Citizens already shoot more criminals than law enforcement, why because they are on the spot when the SHTF. Just the thought of a gun being present makes criminals look for easer marks, and the really stupid ones will eventually just get shot doing what stupid does!

The original thirteen upstarts 26 July 2013 - 3:25am / Freedomville

2.5 millions times a year someone uses a firearm to prevent a crime, that's the last time. You that have no right to defend yourselves will never learn, rely on others for your safety and protection. We stand alone as we always have, and protect others as well. When Europe was in despair twice in the last century it was the firearms and weapons of those crazy Americans that liberated every country on earth. Maybe you peace loving pacifist could learn the lessons of history and arm your populations, unless they can't be trusted or won't defend their loved ones. When Germans came to slaughter the incident men women and children, wouldn't it have been nice to shoot back before you died? It's your right as a human being, not a privilege granted by some government elites.

Anonymous 24 December 2012 - 1:07pm / USA

The mall shooting in Oregon would have been worse if the gunman hadn't been confronted by a CCW holder. So I guess an armed citizen can make a difference. Funny how the Portland local news reported this, but the national media didn't make mention of this.

Yamil Andres Lopez 24 April 2013 - 4:34pm / Netherlands

the reason why US national media did not mention it is that they are in fact nothing less that the PR arm of the US government, which actually wants to ban guns. Mentioning that an armed civilian kept the shooting from becoming worse would advocate very strongly against their campaign to ban guns

Anonymous 6 April 2013 - 9:08pm / america

Do research before you start spouting off nonsense. Thousands of shootings are stopped by legal gun owners in the US it happens every day. The shooter in aurora drove past 3 theaters and specifically went to the only theater that had a no gun policy, so legal gun owners could not stop him. Violence is everywhere in the world regardless of any laws, id prefer to be able to defend myself if it finds its way to me.

Anonymous 9 January 2013 - 7:40pm / United States

Or it could have made things worse. There is no data to support your point. The data available does indicate that the U.S. has the highest level of gun violence in the western world, both on a per capita and aggregate level. Clearly, more guns has not worked, much to Wayne LaPierre's chagrin.

Anonymous 26 March 2013 - 11:42am / USA

Gun control advocates like to reference "gun violence" as oppose to "violence" per capita. If you have no guns in a country you have no gun violence. That doesn't mean you don't have violence. Take Russia, most guns have been stripped from the population but they have 4 times the homicide rate of the US. The bottom line is there will always be violent sociopaths in society and they will kill weather they have guns or not. Taking a defensive tool such as a firearm away from a law abiding citizen does nothing to stop the sociopath from committing violence or murder. You may think you are safer with "feel good" gun laws but you are not!

Anonymous 13 April 2011 - 1:46am / England

Turns out the amsterdam holland mall shooting was a muslim convert after all.

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user avatar
Rob Kievit 13 April 2011 - 8:54am

That's nonsense, Mr or Mrs Anonymous. All that's known about the Alphen gunman, according to the Dutch Public Prosecutor, is that the he was mentally unstable, was deeply interested in disasters and had a suicidal tendency on record. 

David Berridge 11 April 2011 - 8:21pm / Canada

Hiram, which type of firearm do you prefer? I would think nothing less than a .45 or 9mm is better for both handling and firepower. What do you think of compulsory membership in the NRA for all Americans so as to instill proper firearms ownership and responsibilty?

Hiram1 12 April 2011 - 6:11am

David Berridge, I don't prefer any specific cal. I have carried .45 and 9mm. I don't normally carry a weapon on my person. I don't think there should be any "compulsory" requirements and except for one and thatis being a U.S. citizen. My Second Amendment right to own and possess a weapon and my right to protect myself from those who would harm me is sufficient requirements. People should be educated in the use of firearms but the Constitution doesn't require it. All rights have some limitations and free speech is a good comparison. Americans have a right to free speech as long as they don't yell fire in a theater that is not on fire; well, citizens who own guns should have some training to ensure that they are capable of using a gun in the public. As to NRA, it is a good organisation that stands-up and defends the Second Amendment from those who would the right. In closing, if you have read any of the papers of those men who wrote the Constitution you would have found that the Second Amendment is a defense against a strong central government from abusing the freedoms of it's citizens. Governments that take away guns or attempt to take away guns are afraid of it's citizens. Question: If European countries are concerned about human life, why do European nations make and sell weapons to other countries? Pistols and revolvers are made in Spain, Italy, Switizerland, and other nations and sold in the U.S. and other countries? These same countries make and sell military equipment that end-up in nations where the governments slaughter their own people with the weapons made by European citizens. (This last one is why Americans are given a right to own guns.) David it would be nice to live in a world where all humans are treated with dignity and respect but as you know there is no such place and until then, humans have a right to protect their lives from those who would destroy it.

bugs 11 April 2011 - 6:38pm / Netherlands

Seems to me, after reading all the comments here, that Americans must have a lot of fear in their lives to so constantly feel the need to violently defend themselves from their fellow citizens. I know where I would rather live.

Oda Helvetica 13 April 2011 - 8:08am / Switzerland

I suppose the SWISS law mandating that all men carry firearms is also borne of a fear -- including fear of our European leaders.
----- Perhaps that is why HITLER ran over NETHERLANDS in ONE DAY and didn't even bother trying to invade the SWISS despite the vast wealth we held. MILOSEVIC also had such an easy time filling mass graves as non-Serbs had less arms...until those "mentally ill, fearful, paranoid, violent" AMERICANS came along both times and helped ANTI-GUN EUROPEANS excise despots because the DUTCH and most Continental nations besides SWITZERLAND were unprepared to defend themselves, like helpless children...but the US didn't help until after so many people with the same mentality as bugs here DIED (kaput, fin, forever)...but hey at least they died with their moral-superiority and smug arrogance about "gun-happy Americans" intact. (and then they "bravely" watched the Nazis take away Jewish-Dutch and homosexuals, or even told Nazis where the Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies were hiding...suddenly, the DUTCH weren't "FEARLESS" enough (as bugs claims his people have no "fear") to tell the Nazis "Fuck off" when they pumped (or tortured) the Dutch for information...and TODAY, the DUTCH are similarly too gutless to defend themselves from radical-Islamists who want to go berserk and shoot up Dutch towns like Nazis once did; if you want freedoms for drugs (including liquor), sex-workers, funny drawings of Allah, homosexuality, abortion,'d better be prepared to fight some Islamofascists who shoot at you because they hate those freedoms). At some point, having no fear becomes suicidal, just ask those in BELARUS if they wish now that they had as much access to guns as LUKASHENKO's police thugs do. On a smaller scale of death, but tragedies nonetheless, Theo Van Gogh, Pim Fortuyn, people attending the Dutch queen's celebration getting run over by a man using a CAR as his murder-weapon, now a madman with a fully-auto rifle in Netherlands: It's better to be alive and judged by 12 than to be carried by 6, and at some point saying that you are not afraid of violence and like to be unarmed in a nation where those hostile to your culture slaughter you like sheep will become sheer stupidity in quite obvious ways (dying violently when you could have lived more happy years: what else is more self-destructive/stupid?), rather than bravery.
----- So, I know where I would rather live, too: where the common people are
(#1.) better armed and protected than the DUTCH, BUT
(#2.) have less reasons to use their guns than the AMERICANS (or many Latino nations, Balkans, Belarusians, or South Africans... take your pick -- they all have high murder rates, despite their strict gun laws.
----- The Dutch don't learn from their past mistakes, and say: "It will never happen here again, it can't happen here again, it..." Very few DUTCH have enough sensibility to prepare themselves against the next European despot (or Islamofascists), and act as though they will rely again and again on those "mentally ill, violent" AMERICANS and their guns (or rely on the VERY few DUTCH who are "mentally ill and violent" enough to join the military...) to come save the gutless unprepared DUTCH, FRENCH, etc again. As Americans are much weaker economically than in WWII, what if they don't help NL the next time? What if they stay neutral and protect themselves like we Swiss did in WWII? Smoke a bit more weed, Dutchmen, it keeps you peaceful and if Americans legalize it, would they become as peaceful as the Dutch?? Unfortunately for you, Muslims don't smoke weed and think you should be beheaded if you drink liquor or smoke weed, so do us all a favour, smoke some weed, unarmed, in front of some Muslims. ;) Just kidding but the point here...
----- The point here is that if you want the freedoms that Dutch enjoy but Muslims violently oppose, at some point -- perhaps not today, but perhaps soon -- you'd better pick up your balls and be willing to defend your _selves_ from said Muslims like we SWISS do: You hear no stories about Muslims, or foreigners generally, coming into Switzerland and trying to fuck with such a heavily-armed MILITIA (not even so much a military as a MILITIA, of motivated people who know our native terrain better than foreigners); better background-checks on the foreigners might be giving us an advantage over NL, too...
----- instead of expecting those AMERICANS -- whom you DUTCH curse -- to come and save you ingrateful idiots from your own senseless unpreparedness/disarmament again.

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