Revised Firearms Directive set to close legislation gaps
Fire blanks are currently sold freely, but they will have to be licenced like the original weapons
Maria Koleva, Strasbourg
17 March, 2017
Revised rules on firearms setting out how private individuals can lawfully acquire and possess guns or transfer them to other countries across the Union were backed with big majority by MEPs on 14 March at their plenary in Strasbourg. The adopted firearms legislation, which reviews and completes the existing Firearms Directive, imposes restrictions on the type of guns used in the Paris terrorist attacks. Guns converted to fire blanks that currently can be sold freely in certain European countries despite the fact that some versions are easily converted to use with live ammunition, will be licenced under the same rules as the original live firing version, MEPs said.
The strengthened rules on the ownership of semi-automatic weapons fitted with high capacity magazines, require national authorities to keep details needed to trace firearms and improve information sharing between Member States.
British ECR MEP Vicky Ford, rapporteur on the dossier, pointed out after the positive vote that the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters and at the Bataclan theatre in Paris exposed a dangerous loophole which allowed poorly deactivated firearms, known as salute and acoustic weapons, to be freely available. A number of similar items were amongst a cache of over 30 illegal firearms found by British police on a boat in a Kent marina in August 2015, she emphasised noting that “following today's vote, this loophole will be closed.”
As Vicky Ford explained, it has been a long and difficult process to reach a compromise which protects the public by making it more difficult for terrorists and criminals to get hold of higher capacity firearms while also safeguarding the interests of lawful sports shooters, collectors, re-enactors and other groups. The rapporteur opined as well that the Commission's original proposals were very poorly drafted, contained many technical errors and would have had many disproportionate restrictions on legal owners. “I believe we have now achieved a sensible balance", Vicky Ford underlined.
According to MEPs, national authorities can authorise target shooters to possess and use higher capacity semi-automatic firearms which are otherwise restricted provided they are training for competitions, or taking part in such. The changes have been drawn up in collaboration with sport shooting organisations, including the International Practical Shooting Confederation.
Exemptions are also made for military and civil defence personnel. Authorities will be able also to grant authorisations as well to recognised museums and, in exceptional and duly reasoned cases, to collectors, subject to strict security measures. Firearms that are historically important will not be covered by new marking requirements, nor will the rules apply to antiques.
To become a law, the new rules have to be formally approved by the Council and afterwards the EU countries will have 15 months to transpose the text into national law.
We have strengthened security in Europe without restricting the freedom of law-abiding citizens in their spare time," said Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, EPP MEP from Sweden commented at the news conference after the vote together with the other shadow rapporteurs.
Italian S&D MEP Sergio Cofferati said: “We achieved these results without criminalising the normal user and while preserving the current rights of legal owners.” Dita Charanzov?, ALDE spokesperson on the Internal Market from the Czech Republic, did not agree with her colleagues stating that “instead of limiting illicit trade with firearms, the directive limits the rights of legal owners.”