Stronger firearm rules will help protect us all

Terrorism is once again on the rise in Europe, with soft targets at the greatest risk; new firearm regulations will help prevent guns reaching terrorists, writes Julian King.

Julian King | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Julian King

03 Mar 2017

We are living in dangerous times. Terrorism is once again on the rise, reaching levels not seen in Europe for decades. Those who seek to harm us are executing ever more cowardly attacks on soft targets including airports, Christmas markets and summer festivals; anywhere that innocent families gather for pleasure and relaxation.

Many good people are working around the clock to thwart terrorist attacks - I know this because I meet many of them and we are all safer as a result of their dedication and professionalism.

However, the people charged with defending us need to be equipped with the tools that are most relevant and effective to the challenges we face.


We can, and must, do more in response to the terrorist murders of more than 130 people across Europe last year. We must also be certain that we have learned lessons from each of the attacks in which they died. The same vulnerabilities that placed the victims in harm's way must not be used again by terrorists, or indeed by anybody intent on causing harm.

At the end of last year, based on hard experience and the bitter lessons learned from recent attacks, we revised our firearms directive. We agreed new measures designed to squeeze the space in which the terrorists operate.

These included new, stricter rules on legally held firearms, ensuring that the most lethal weapons that terrorists may want to use are taken out of civilian hands. 

Deactivated, acoustic and alarm weapons, which were used in the Paris attacks in January 2015, will now fall under the scope of the new measures and therefore will be regulated in future.

Clearer rules have also been agreed on marking and registering fi rearms to improve their traceability. This will provide assurances for legal gun owners that their weapons cannot be used with impunity should they be stolen.

Our objective is to raise the level of security for all citizens. I know that there are citizens that pursue hobbies involving firearms, who have no intention of allowing them to fall into the wrong hands. 

The Commission's aim is not to deprive hunters, sport shooters or collectors from enjoying their pastimes. However, we must take the appropriate measures to address all risks to public security.

To give just one example of the level of threat, Spanish police in collaboration with Europol recently successfully concluded a major operation where 10,000 firearms were seized and five arrests made. 

The crime gang they busted had acquired a significant amount of these firearms in auctions and from other legal entities. Many of the weapons had been deactivated but were retooled in the gang's own workshop.

Reinforcing the rules around the acquisition and possession of legal firearms goes hand in hand with putting an end to illegal fi rearms trafficking.

In this context, the EU recently agreed with the Western Balkan countries to jointly reinforce the fight against illegal firearms trafficking.

This comprehensive approach, covering both legal and illegal firearms is vital; terrorists want to harm all of us.

Nobody has anything to fear from tighter regulation of firearms except those who would seek to use them for criminal or terrorist purposes.