The European Commission announced on 18 November a series of proposed amendments to the EU firearms directive, imposing tighter restrictions on the acquisition and possession of firearms in the European Union. Proposals include a ban on certain semi-automatic firearms, restricting licences to five years and medical tests for firearms owners. Shooting organisations across the EU have voiced their concerns.
The amendments have been proposed as an anti-terrorism measure, firstly as a reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shootings earlier this year, and then ramped up in the wake of the attacks in Paris in November. However, the majority of the amendments seem to specifically target legal firearms ownership.
Among the most problematic of the proposals is the complete ban of “semi-automatic firearms for civilian use which resemble weapons with automatic mechanisms”, mandatory medical tests for those applying for or renewing a firearms licence, and the creation of an EU-wide database of shooters so member states can easily share information.
Additionally, the amendment that firearms licences “shall not exceed five years” will directly impact campaigns by the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) to extend licences to 10 years as a means of easing pressure on the licensing process.
BASC has reacted to the amendments, saying the organisation is working with the Home Office and the Federation of European Hunting Associations (FACE).
Peter Glenser, BASC council member and firearms legal specialist said: “It is important to recognise the difference between legitimate sporting firearms and illegal weapons. We fully support moves by the EU to give legal force to this distinction and to tackle terrorism. Governments should ensure that new laws separate lawful ownership and the use of sporting guns from illegal firearms used in terrorism.”
FACE has also published a press release, saying: “FACE supports the European Commission’s initiatives in the fight against terrorism and illegal practices. FACE nonetheless questions how the Commission’s proposal to further restrict the lawful possession of firearms by hunters and sports shooters would prevent terrorists from committing atrocities. Illegally manufactured and/or trafficked firearms are readily available from the black market within the EU or from outside its borders.
“FACE underlines that no link exists between the possession of legal civilian firearms for hunting and shooting purposes and criminal behaviour and terrorism.”
Meanwhile, a petition on change.org entitled ‘You cannot stop terrorism by restricting legal gun ownership’, campaigning against the amendments, has garnered over 43,000 signatures in just two days.