Iceland Has Its First-ever Fatal Police Shooting, Really

Hold on to your long underwear: Iceland (the island nation that, while warmer than the misleadingly-named Greenland, is still pretty cold) has had what is thought to be its first-ever fatal police shooting. That’s right: its first-ever, probably because the regular police force doesn’t carry guns. Police forces reportedly shot a man after first firing tear gas canisters into his windows to try to subdue him. They only returned fire when the man shot at them, injuring two Special Forces officers.

The shooting occurred in a suburb of the island nation’s capital, Reykjavik, on Monday. The 59-year-old man killed in the shootout is believed to have made multiple threats to his neighbors and was rushed to the hospital after the shooting, where he then died. Still, the police force offered its regrets. “Police regret this incident and would like to extend their condolences to the family of the man,” said Haraldur Johannessen, Iceland’s police chief, and the country is apparently providing counseling to the Special Forces team involved in the shootout. In contrast, New York had 16 fatal shootings by police in 2012 alone, and nine in 2011. The two countries are an ocean — and a world — apart.

The shooting also has people talking about rates of gun ownership in Iceland: though the country has a population of only 325,000, it has about 90,000 registered gun owners and nearly no gun-related crime. Apparently, strict ownership requirements and a registration requirement discourage people from shooting each other — who’d have thunk it? Plus, most of the firearms owned by Icelanders are shotguns and hunting rifles.

“Semi-automatic rifles are banned and handgun ownership is fortunately low, mostly in connection with sharpshooting. Gun ownership in Iceland is mostly for the purpose of hunting and practicing sport,” the chairman of Iceland’s Hunting Association told the Iceland Review. “It shows that we are on the same level as other nations in the northern hemisphere. It is in our culture to hunt wild animals.”

Of course, the north Atlantic nation also has no standing army, and Reykjavik’s mayor — a pacifist — wants Iceland to quit NATO and has barred military planes from the city’s airport in the name of making it a “city of peace.” Not exactly something the U.S. would — or can — do, either.