Firearms proposals will penalise law-abiding citizens

The Commission's proposals for new firearms regulations risk penalising law-abiding citizens, when it is criminals we should be going after, writes Robert Iswaszkiewicz.

Robert Iswaszkiewicz | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Robert Iswaszkiewicz

11 Jul 2016

Europe has been struggling with numerous threats; chief among them being terrorism. The recent events in Paris and Brussels clearly showed the large and deadly scale of this problem. 

Yet in the fight against terrorism, we have started to forget about the personal freedoms that we are slowly losing, all in the name of security. Does being safe really have to mean being defenceless?

The revision of the firearms directive is supposed to improve our security. However, it is based on false assumptions, meaning it could end up being useless. The European Commission has asserted that the best way to combat the illegal firearms market is to enhance control over the legal market by increasing administrative barriers to access to firearms. 


This is a clear error. Rather than tackling criminals, the executive has launched a battle against shooting sports, hunting, museums and legal owners of firearms.

The Commission has also made the mistake of not preparing an impact assessment, meaning there is no precise data available on the impact of the planned proposals on the market and owners of firearms.

The Commission's proposals on changing firearms categories and introducing additional restrictions have justifiably been met with criticism and objections from both citizens and shooting organisations.

Critics have pointed out the lack of any logical connection or causal link between the tragedy in Paris - where the assailants used guns illegally smuggled into the EU from the countries of former Yugoslavia - and legally owned handguns.

The proposed regulation does nothing to block access to illegal firearms, since it doesn't even address this problem. The illegal arms trade is fought using police, operational techniques, intelligence and coordination among European security services - not by moving firearms categories from one table to another.

Parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee has introduced considerable changes to the text. We have reached an agreement on compulsory medical tests preceding the issuing of a permit to own firearms. This will make it easier to identify people with psychological problems that should not have access to firearms.

At the same time, setting minimum standards will end arbitrary decisions and the exclusion of disabled people, who are currently denied the right to own firearms despite meeting the psychological requirements. The college's proposal on distance and online sales has also been improved, with rational solutions having been introduced. 

Regulations on firearms marking have also been included, even though this is already a norm among producers. These specific regulations concern the elements necessary for marking. In line with the digital revolution, I would like to see marking take the form of a QR code rather than a serial number.

Reserve and territorial defence units have been excluded from the directive; such regulations were sought by member states, particularly Finland. The changes introduced considerably improve the directive and respond to social expectations.

However, many regulations remain still incoherent and may lead to the destruction of the legal firearms market. How can a regulation that introduces separate storage of ammunition and firearms be reconciled with the fact that these are meant to be used for self-defence and property protection? This makes it unfeasible to use them in emergency situations. 

One dangerous element of the text is the issue of firearm categories.

The proposed regulations will lead to a decrease in firearms production in Europe and strike a blow to shooting sports. The text must be revised.

I personally will defend the right of every law-abiding citizen of Europe to own fi rearms. The possibility of defending oneself as well as one's family and property is one of the foundations of our personal freedoms.

Criminals, murderers and terrorists have a permanent advantage over we law-abiding citizens. They are not bound by directives or morality. 

In order to neutralise this advantage, it is necessary to relax access to firearms for citizens, so that anyone to whom it occurs to open fi re during a concert, in the subway, or in the street is aware that they will be answered by the quick and final reaction of law-abiding citizens.