Was the revision of the EU firearms directive worth the effort?

Was the revision of the EU firearms directive worth the effort, asks Tomasz W. Stępień

Tomasz W. Stepien | Photo credit: FIREARMS UNITED

By Tomasz W. Stepien

03 Mar 2017

We have seen 16 months of innumerable meetings, public hearings, statements, reports, and redrafting, all at substantial cost to the taxpayer. After all that, what do we have to show? 

Comparing the text due to go to the vote in plenary on 14 March against the Commission's bold statements, then the answer is that the entire exercise has been a complete waste of effort. 

A revision that was supposed to plug holes exploited by terrorists and criminals do not even begin to attempt to address the illicit traffic of firearms.


These will continue to flow into the EU and reach criminal hands just as smoothly as they have ever done. This opportunity to take effective measures aimed at the root problem was missed from the moment that the Commission diverted its entire focus and efforts to creating prohibitive controls on the legal firearms sector, an area already well-regulated by the current directive.

The Commission's proposal was presented without the mandatory impact assessment studies and in violation of the fundamental principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. 

While ignoring the results of studies proving that there is no correlation between legal firearm ownership and crime, it quoted incorrect statistical data and, in one of its worst moves, the Commission suggested recognised collectors as being a potential source of trafficking, yet failed to present any evidence to support this.

The proposal will be long remembered for the Commission's audacity in proposing the permanent damage and destruction of historical firearms curated by museums and private collectors, as well as confiscating certain categories of firearms used in the most popular sport-shooting disciplines.

These past 16 months have been characterised by an exercise in damage control by deeply shocked stakeholders and by sensible MEPs.

Most notable of these is Parliament's rapporteur, Vicky Ford, who did an admirable job in rolling back the worst excesses of the proposed measures.

Together, they saved Europe from an act of frenzied institutionalised vandalism against both our historic heritage and citizens' private property.

Where does this leave us? The current text is littered with potential pitfalls for both stakeholders and member state authorities, which will struggle with technically-unenforceable legislation, including the priceless transient categorisation of semi-automatic centrefire pistols and rifles based on the capacity of the magazines possessed alongside them.

We have one last chance to avoid collateral damage, to legitimate activities and to the EU's credibility in the eyes of millions of law-abiding citizens. 

A number of MEPs are tabling a series of sensible technical amendments aimed at permitting - at minimum - the smooth transposition of changes into national laws, in order to minimise the impact on citizens and member state authorities.

Let's be sure that we support them.