MEPs examine new gun control rules

New plans to close firearms loopholes have been unveiled after the "wake up call" of the terrorist attacks on Paris and Brussels.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

21 Apr 2016

Legal controls on blank firing guns, basic standards for firearms storage, mandatory medical checks for licence holders and tighter controls on the sale of ammunition are being proposed in the attempt to close loopholes in European gun laws.

The measures are part of a raft of proposals put forward by Vicky Ford, Chair of the internal market and consumer protection committee.

The UK MEP is leading Parliament's response to changes to the firearms directive produced by the European Commission following the Paris terrorist attacks.


Amendments to a Commission proposal to revise the directive were discussed in the committee on Wednesday.

Ford, the rapporteur on the dossier, said that concern to close loopholes in European gun laws and strike a balance between the right to own certain types of firearms and appropriate risk controls shaped the changes.

Committee members welcomed the amendments, saying her draft report was an "excellent basis" for revising the directive. 

Stronger deactivation standards, classifying weapons, defining essential components, marking and traceability of firearms, medical tests, time limits for licences, safe storage, online sales and information sharing were among the issues addressed during the debate.

Ford described the Commission's proposals as "poorly drafted" and having unintended consequences for museum owners and collectors, sporting organisations and groups such as the Countryside Alliance in the UK.

The deputy, who has tabled 86 amendments, said: "Paris was a wake-up call."

She added, "We have had European gun laws since 1991 and there is a clear loophole in the treatment of blank firing weapons which allows their conversion to fire live rounds. We must close that loophole.

"We cannot fight terrorism alone and it is important I receive suggestions from different parts of Europe. We can then work together on compromises so that the interests of legitimate users are safeguarded while we keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists and criminals."

Ford suggests that a firearm should only be considered deactivated if the process is truly irreversible. A list of components essential for a firearm to operate would be drawn up so that these can also be traced.

Other proposals include:

  • Rewording the Commission's "impractical" plan to ban semi-automatic firearms that resemble automatic firearms;
  • Define strict conditions under which otherwise prohibited firearms could be used for historical, study or national security purposes. Permissions would be granted on a case-by-case basis by member states only if public safety was not endangered;
  • Introduce secure storage requirements, which could include on-site checks;
  • Introduce medical checks for those holding firearms, although it would be left to member states to decide how these should operate;
  • The handover of firearms, parts, and ammunition at the conclusion of a sale must take place face-to-face;
  • Improve information sharing among EU Member States, including details of when authorisation has been refused.

Other MEPs have until 28 April to table their own amendments to the legislative proposal and the committee is expected to vote on the final proposals at the end of June.


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