It’s true. Here in Italy you will see lots of people carrying firearms, but quite a number of people in Italy carry guns, not just Italy’s police forces.
Some examples: The Carabinieri which are a sort of civilian military police unit run round with pistols and oversee road blocks and checks with sub-machine guns.
The Polizia, who are a civilian body all carry guns, then there are the Polizia Municipale, who are ‘city police’ who generally concern themselves with parking and traffic related offenses, but not speeding cars (but this has never been clear to me), and they carry firearms.
Armed Forestry Department
Those who work for Italy’s forestry work as forest rangers may carry side arms from time to time.
Armed Security Guards in Italy
Next there are Italy’s ubiquitous private security guards, almost all of whom carry guns.
These people are employed to stand outside banks to warn off potential robbers, but not all banks have these guards. Often, though, they drive around after dark leaving little slips of paper inserted in the shutters of shops and offices to indicate that they passed by and that all was OK. These guards are often employed, with their guns, to keep a watch on supermarkets during busy periods, such as Christmas.
Armed Bus Ticket Inspectors
I’d never seen an armed bus ticket inspector before I came to Italy. One can only conclude that there must be some people here who literally take a violent dislike to paying a Euro or so for a ticket.
I saw am armed bunch of ticket inspectors checking tickets on a tram late one night.
As far as I know Italy is not running a ‘shoot on sight’ policy with regard to fare dodgers, but you never know. Still it was surprising to see these guys with guns.
Businessmen and Shop Owners with Guns in Italy
Well, that’s the guns which are openly carried and plainly visible. The there are the hidden guns.
It is not too difficult for people working in high risk jobs in Italy to be allowed to have and carry arms.
Jewelers often have guns and have used them against thieves. Bar owners also get permits to keep a six shooter under the counter, so remember to pay for your coffee before leaving the bars here. Tobacconists may have under the counter guns as well.
Well known Italian, Silvio Berlusconi, a businessman and politician carried a gun, a .357 magnum, in the 1970s – photo – he was afraid of being kidnapped.
Dentists Armed to the Teeth
I once heard of a dentist who had a gun. One can only assume that he was rather bad at his profession and that he had quite a few disgruntled customers around. I don’t know.
It does seem to be relatively easy to get hold of firearm permits in Italy, as long as you are an Italian citizen.
The Wrong People Get Guns
However, controls are not always as effective as they should be and there was a nasty incident in which a mentally unstable gun owner decided to take pot-shots at passers-by from his apartment. He killed a couple of people if I remember well.
After the event, it transpired that the loopy shooter came from a wealthy family and his relatives had obviously been able to convince the authorities to give their son a gun license.
If you know the right people and have a bit of cash to splash, most things are possible in Italy.
Italy’s Many Armed Police Forces
You may be asking just why Italy has so many police forces, Carabinieri, Polizia and Polizia Municipale. Well, I have posed this question and the answer I’ve received on a few occasions is that the Carabinieri and Polizia are kept separate because of an ancient Italian fear of there being a coup.
You should also know that the two main police units, the Carabinieri and the Polizia, carry out basically the same job.
Some travel guides to Italy will tell you that the Polizia can be a little difficult to deal with, however I have met and had some dealings with Polizia officers and I’ve always found them to be fine.
You do get some grouchy coppers in Italy, but you do in the UK too. I speak Italian, so this probably helps both them and me a lot, as you may understand.
The Carabinieri are on the whole from a slightly different social class and I understand that many are university educated, they are thus more likely to know other languages which means that they are probably the best port of call for non-Italian speaking foreigners who have had problems with petty theft and the like.
Armed Tax Inspectors in Italy
I almost forgot, there are the Guardia di Finanza people who have guns. These people are responsible for enforcing tax regulations, so they are armed tax inspectors. They wear grey uniforms and do not generally get involved with the general public.
Arms in the Country
Well, that is all the city and town people who are tote guns in Italy. If you go off into the Italian countryside you may come across the good old shotgun. These are often used to shoot tiny little birds and other things which come into their sights.
Other objects which end up being hit by shotgun shooters in Italy from time to time include nagging wives and old friends who cross the line. From time to time, the news in Italy carries stories about some old boy who has gone and shot his wife, or someone else who became too much to put up with.
Having waffled on about all the guns, I have to say that I have never ended up in the middle of a gun battle in Italy and have never really seen any police officers with their guns drawn, apart from on the TV news. Oh, and when they are manning roadside checkpoints which are quite common in Italy. The checkpoint cops may well be armed with sub-machine guns. When they wave their lollipop shaped sticks to indicate you should pull over, do so!
Guns in Evidence Don’t Worry Me
I don’t have any problems with people carrying guns, as long as they are trained appropriately and not trigger happy, but for someone who comes from the UK where guns have been all but banned, it comes as a bit of a shock to see so much fire-power in evidence. Having said that, though, Italians do not get their feathers ruffled whenever there is some gun-related crime. So far, there have been no calls to limit the ownership of firearms in Italy, unlike in the UK and the US.
Italians seem to be able to understand that the actions of one madman do not represent the actions of the vast majority. And levels of crime in Italy, despite all the guns, are incredibly low compared to places like the gun toting USA. Here are some statistics on firearm murder levels from around the world: Firearm Murder Statistics – based on Seventh United Nations Survey of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems, covering the period 1998 – 2000 (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Centre for International Crime Prevention)
My Best Shot
OK, I’ve taken my best shot at explaining the gun situation here. I shall bite the bullet and will probably not target you with this subject ever again. Whoops! Those gun puns got a little bit out of hand. Wasn’t aiming to do it. Something just triggered it off, I guess. Maybe this entry was a little off-target. Come to Italy and see the sights. Enough.