Federal independent MP Bob Katter has a reputation for shooting from the hip in media interviews but has badly misfired with a claim that Israel, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland provide schoolchildren with guns.
The claim is wrong. Government authorities in each of the four nations mentioned by Mr Katter have confirmed to AAP FactCheck that schoolchildren in their countries are not provided with guns and schools do not have armouries.
Mr Katter, who has been the MP for Kennedy in Queensland since 1993, made the claim during an interview on ABC TV’s Afternoon Briefing show on March 30.
While discussing Australia’s national security, Mr Katter said: “I would immediately move to providing a rifle for every single boy – and girl too, if they want them – in an armoury in every single school in Australia and if that sounds extremist that’s what Israel does, that’s what Finland does, that’s what Sweden does, that’s what Switzerland does” (video mark 19min 18sec).
A spokesman for Mr Katter told AAP FactCheck that the MP “was talking generally about high rates of gun ownership and conscription in those countries”.
“In the event of an invasion or war, Australia is not equipped to fight in guerrilla warfare as the Ukrainian people are doing currently,” the spokesman said in an email.
When asked in the ABC interview if he was referring to “compulsory service”, Mr Katter replied: “No no no, all I’m saying is give them a rifle”.
AAP FactCheck investigated gun laws in each of the four countries mentioned by Mr Katter.
In Israel, nobody under 18 years of age is allowed to own a gun, according to the Israeli government’s firearms licensing department. Israeli citizens or permanent residents who complete compulsory military service may own a gun at 18 while those who complete national service outside the military may own a gun at 21. Israeli citizens who have not completed military or national service must wait until they turn 27 before they can own a gun.
Associate Professor Philip Alpers, a firearms control expert and the founding director of GunPolicy.org, told AAP FactCheck that Israel is “heavily militarised” but nobody gets a gun before they complete compulsory military service.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli Ministry of Education confirmed to AAP FactCheck that Mr Katter’s claim was “incorrect”.
Some schools in Israel employ security guards but “the security method and its scope are determined by the Israel Police”, the spokeswoman said.
Finland is “a country of hunters and gun enthusiasts”, according to Finland’s Ministry of the Interior, with more than 1.5 million licensed firearms among its population of 5.5 million. However, the minimum age at which a person can obtain a gun permit is 18 years, in line with Article 6 of a 2021 European Union directive on the control of the acquisition of weapons, or 15 years with parental consent.
A spokesman for Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture told AAP FactCheck that Finnish schools “do not provide their pupils or students with firearms, nor do they have any provisions for storing them”.
A spokesman for the Swedish Minister for Schools similarly told AAP FactCheck the claim that schoolchildren in Sweden are given guns is false.
“No, this is not true. No pupils in our schools are given rifles and there are no gun armouries in Swedish schools,” the spokesman said in an email.
In Switzerland, the federal act on weapons, weapon accessories and ammunition states that nobody under 18 years of age may obtain a gun permit. The legislation does not mention anything about guns in schools or school armouries.
A spokeswoman for the Swiss Federal Office of Police – which oversees firearms licensing in Switzerland – told AAP FactCheck via email: “We can confirm that such practice does not exist in Switzerland. Moreover, Swiss law clearly states that: ‘A weapon acquisition permit will not be issued to any person who has not yet reached 18 years of age’.”
Mr Katter’s claim is baseless. Government authorities in each of the four countries mentioned by the Queensland MP – Israel, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland – confirmed to AAP FactCheck that the claim is wrong.
None of those four countries provide schoolchildren with guns or have armouries in schools.
False – The claim is inaccurate.