Analysis. In 2015, after a mass shooting in Oregon, Pozzolo wrote that “according to Obama, it’s always the fault of the guns. But I’ve never seen a gun shoot itself.” Ironically, the latter is precisely his account of the events on New Year's Eve.

In Italy, an MP’s gunfire draws attention to the right-wing gun obsession

The events that took place on December 31 involving Fratelli d’Italia Deputy Emanuele Pozzolo have turned into a political scandal. During a New Year’s party at the Pro Loco in Rosazza, a small town in the province of Biella, a shot was fired from a gun legally owned by the FdI deputy that hit the son-in-law of an agent from the security detail of Undersecretary for Justice and co-reveler Andrea Delmastro in the leg.

The parliamentarian claimed that the gun went off “accidentally” and that he wasn’t even handling the weapon at the time. The gun appears to have been a North American Arms LR22, a small revolver which fits in the palm of one hand, easily concealable and often used as a backup weapon. The firearm was seized, and the Biella prefecture has initiated proceedings to revoke the self-defense gun permit that had been issued to the parliamentarian, who is now under investigation for causing aggravated injury.

After initially invoking parliamentary immunity, Pozzolo agreed to undergo a stub test to detect any traces of gunpowder; however, he didn’t hand over his clothes to the carabinieri for testing right away, but only did so about six hours after the incident. According to the Biella prosecutor’s office, immunity shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place, since Pozzolo was not asked to submit to a personal or home search.

Pozzolo, a 38-year-old legal consultant with a long history of political militancy, first in the National Alliance, then in the Lega Nord and then in Fratelli d’Italia, was elected deputy for FdI in 2022. On a number of past occasions, he has spoken out on social media in favor of gun ownership. Among his posts – a number of which were deleted from Facebook after January 1 – one can still find traces of some of his past statements: in 2015, after a mass shooting in Oregon, Pozzolo wrote that “according to Obama, it’s always the fault of the guns. But I’ve never seen a gun shoot itself.” Ironically, the latter is precisely his account of the events on New Year’s Eve. And in June 2016, he made a Facebook post (which seems to have been deleted) which began: “The EU wants to take the guns away from honest citizens to fight terrorism. Let’s explain to these pigs that …” etc.

This is the mantra of the pro-gun lobby, whose hard core of support at the political level comes from Salvini and (most prominently nowadays) from the politicians of Fratelli d’Italia. The leading figure is Giovanbattista Fazzolari, currently an undersecretary of state at the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for implementing the Meloni government’s program. It is no coincidence that in the last legislature, Fazzolari was the originator of the bill which repealed the ban on the sale of handguns with 9×19 mm parabellum bullets in December 2021.

Then there is Fratelli d’Italia senator Bartolomeo Amidei, who in July introduced a bill which, in addition to an extensive overhaul of hunting regulations, would have allowed 16-year-olds to legally bear arms when going hunting. The bill was withdrawn in recent weeks after it was met with controversy.

However, a bill put forward by Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi that aims to authorize public safety officers to carry a weapon other than their service weapon without a license when they’re off duty has been approved by the Council of Ministers and is under consideration in Parliament. The new rule would allow 300,000 police officers to go around armed with their own guns at all times. Minister Piantedosi argued for the merits of the bill, saying that the service weapon is difficult to conceal and that the measure will serve to “prevent the commission of crimes.”

And therein lies the point. Today, only prefects, police chiefs, magistrates and high-ranking public safety officials can go around armed with their own weapon, which they can purchase without needing a license. But this is for their own self-defense: an understandable rule, given that these are people who are carrying out a risky profession on behalf of the state. However, this new bill is aimed at “public safety,” in which case it should be up to the state to provide both the weapons and the proper training to use them – the latter, however, is taken for granted.

These are just some of the measures put forth by the right-wingers. But what they want to achieve is a radical change in the public’s view of guns and the “culture” surrounding them. They want them to be seen not as offensive weapons, whose possession must be strictly regulated, but as an ordinary means for self-defense and ensuring public safety. As they have been saying for years, their next step will be yet another change to the rules, replacing the principle of legitimate self-defense with the one that says self-defense is always legitimate.

Giorgio Beretta is an Analyst at the Permanent Observatory for Light Weapons and Security and Defense Policy – OPAL.

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