Loaded (differently) for bear: Governor enacts new rules for guns as polar bear protection


Count Dirty Harry among those likely to approve of new rules for weapons that can be used for polar bear protection enacted this week by The Governor of Svalbard.

“These guidelines generally continue current practices, but include new requirements for one-handed weapons that can be used for polar bear protection,” a statement by the governor’s office notes.

“Among other things, there are now requirements of documented shooting activity in an approved shooting association to continue to have one-handed weapons,” the statement notes. “If this is complied with, those who have permission for competition and practice weapons can apply to the governor for permission to also use such weapons for protection against polar bears.”

The new requirements do not apply to those who are authorized to carry handguns for work-related purposes or for trappers.

Youths ages 16 to 18 are also now allowed to rent signal pistols under certain conditions. It is also now legal to sell and import rubber bullets for shotguns.

“Pepper spray is, however, not permitted. The governor is working on an assessment of whether this should be allowed in the future.”

While carrying a firearm and taking other precautions to avoid polar bear encounters and ward off attacks have long been in place, the governor has modified those regulations in recent years with a focus on responsible behavior. The leader of a tourist group attacked by a bear earlier this year, for example, was fined 10,000 kroner for negligence by failing to ensure a tripwire alarm system was correctly set up and failing to have anybody on polar bear watch duty when the attack occurred.