The gun trade continues to scrutinise the possibility of European intervention after shooting organisations and a British MEP worked together on a new version of Europe’s firearms law proposals. But the proposals will continue to be revised before being made European law, and shooting organisations remain vigilant against any “unworkable” and “disproportionate” revisions.
Vicky Ford MEP, the ‘rapporteur’ on changes to the EU Firearms Directive, has formally recommended that any proposals to ban semi-automatic firearms for civilian use are shelved.
Additionally, under-18s’ access to firearms has been safeguarded as long as basic checks are met, and the door has been reopened to the possibility of a 10-year shotgun or firearms licence.
Europe’s initial plans were to add any semi-autos that “resemble weapons with automatic mechanisms” to its prohibited Category A list, along with any semi-autos that “can easily be converted to automatic firearms” or those with a high magazine capacity.
But the revised proposals, produced after liaison with a number of shooting organisation umbrella body FACE, removes the “resemble” clause as well as any reference to banning. The new text of the directive reads: “There is a risk that any firearms converted to firing blanks, irritants, other active substances or pyrotechnic ammunition can be converted back in such a way as to make them capable of firing live ammunition. Such firearms should therefore remain in the categories in which they were classified prior to their conversion.”
However, shooters and representative organisations have expressed concern over a new proposal to ban semi-automatic firearms with the ability to hold more than six rounds without reloading. The Countryside Alliance called this proposal “completely preposterous and ill thought out.”
BASC had slammed previous draft proposals for ending the possibility of introducing 10-year gun licences, something BASC has long campaigned for. Now, a clause has been introduced that could rekindle hopes of a 10-year licence in the UK: “The maximum duration of an authorisation shall not exceed five years, unless Member States have implemented a system of continuous monitoring… The authorisation may be renewed if the conditions on the basis of which it was granted are still fulfilled.” Elsewhere, the proposed directive defines continuous monitoring as including “medical checks, which may be on a continuous or periodic basis, for the acquisition and possession of firearms” – something the UK now fulfils continuously as of the introduction of medical notifications on 6 April.
The revised proposals have mostly garnered positive comment from shooting representatives – but where they continue to stir controversy is the requirement for RFDs to keep a computerised firearms register, a rule the UK nearly brought in and then dropped in late 2014.
The new proposals have preserved and strengthened the requirement for electronic records, stipulating that “all records relating to the firearm shall be maintained in an electronically retrievable format for an indefinite period” and that EU countries must maintain computer systems that are interoperable with each other.
Imposing a blanket requirement has been dismissed as susceptible to “gold-plating”, whereby the trade is forced to comply with over-implemented laws that go beyond the requirements, at great cost to individual gun shops. A spokesperson for BASC said: “BASC is concerned that this is an entirely disproportionate proposal which will negatively affect the £2.5bn shooting sector. The proposal delivers little obvious benefit and has not been subject to an impact assessment. It will destroy jobs and harm the rural economy.”
The Countryside Alliance welcomed some revisions as “sensible steps”, but warned against “draconian” and “unworkable” proposals, such as the requirement that firearms and ammunition (including shotgun ammunition) must be locked in separate compartments.
“The European Council believes it needs quick-fire legislation to gain back public trust in the fight against the terrorism; unfortunately, and as we have continuously stated, these proposals will have no effect on terrorists but a significant effect on the legal shooting community,” Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said. “The Countryside Alliance will not stand for ill-judged and knee-jerk decisions that will impose further restrictions on legal firearm holders but be no hindrance to those who commit illegal activities.”
You can view Vicky Ford’s draft report in full here.