Flemish minister proposes equipping civil servants with air guns

Flemish minister proposes equipping civil servants with air guns
Flemish Minister of Finance, Budget and Housing Matthias Diependaele. Credit: BELGA PHOTO/ NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

Flemish Finances Minister Matthias Diependaele said on Sunday that he was in favour of arming officials from the Flemish Tax Administration (Vlabel) with air pistols during their financial checks.

Official authorisation has been requested by Federal Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne, N-VA politician Diependaele told VTM News. He added that he was soon expecting a response from the Federal Government.

Unlike traditional firearms, air guns used compressed air and small lead pellets as projectiles. Most air guns can be freely purchased in Belgium by any person over the age of 18. Only air pistols with muzzle energy exceeding 7.5 joules are banned.

The minister justified the arming of the civil servants following a number of attacks against Vlabel’s members during checks, especially in relation to road tax.

According to figures from his cabinet, there were 17 incidents in 2021, half of which involved verbal abuse and others turning into physical altercations. Last year, 38 incidents were recorded, two-thirds of which involved physical violence.

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According to Diependaele, Vlabel inspectors who collect overdue road taxes during traffic checks and carry out front-line interception must be able to carry an air pistol.

“Of course, they must receive training. These are defensive weapons, with which you cannot kill anyone, but which already have a sufficient deterrent effect,” the Flemish minister argues. The minister also wants the officials to be allowed to use pepper spray and handcuffs.

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