EU states reach difficult compromise on firearms

The revised firearms directive will make t harder for collectable weapons to find their way back into circulation. [zaphad1/Flickr]

EU countries finally accepted the Commission’s proposal to strengthen firearms regulations on Tuesday (20 December), after the executive agreed on a number of compromises. EURACTIV France reports.

Presented in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks on 13 November 2015, the revised firearms directive was the subject of long and tortuous negotiations.

It led to a widespread mobilisation of pro-firearms lobbies across Europe, supported by politicians on the extreme right, the centre-right and the political centre.

In the face of strong opposition from hunting and sport shooting groups, the European Commission was forced to compromise on some of the most important elements of its initial proposal. But these concessions finally allowed the member states to adopt the revised directive by a qualified majority on Tuesday (20 December).

According to EURACTIV’s sources, two countries rejected the directive: the Czech Republic, which opposed any toughening of the regulations on firearms, and Luxembourg, which wanted stricter laws.

Commission battles hostile firearms lobby

One year and hundreds of hours of meetings after the Paris attacks, the EU is still struggling to find common ground on the regulation of firearms. Some hunters and sport shooters have flatly rejected the debate. EURACTIV France reports.

No ban for semi-automatics

The executive originally wanted a complete ban on the most dangerous semi-automatic weapons, including assault rifles like the AK47 and the AR15. The Commission considers these to be military weapons.

But this was not possible. Possession of a weapon with a magazine that can hold more than 20 rounds will now be illegal… but not for sport shooters or hunters in certain countries.

This compromise, already seen as weak, did not stop Europe’s gun lobby taking to social media to vent its frustration. Pro-firearms campaigners judged the Commission’s concessions insufficient, saying that most of the firearms used for sport shooting would now be classified “A” and banned. Around 50 guns of this type are used in sport shooting.

After the lorry terrorist attack in Berlin this Monday (19 December), pro-gun campaigners repeatedly asked if the EU would now ban lorries, even creating the hashtag #EUtruckban, a reference to the hashtag #EUgunban they had used to denounce the Commission’s efforts to tighten gun control.

Threats

Pro-gun campaigners have also regularly threatened the Commissioners behind the reform, as well as the president of the executive himself, accusing them of inciting more Brexit-style rebellions.

The Czech Republic was without doubt the country that showed the greatest opposition. Prague voted against the reform at Tuesday’s meeting of member states ambassadors (Coreper), according to EURACTIV’s sources.

“The violence we have been threatened with is extraordinary, it is of a similar scale to when we bring up the subject of the Israel-Palestine conflict,” said Pascal Durand, a French Green MEP involved in the negotiations with the Parliament’s civil liberties committee.

The text adopted by the member states must now pass through a plenary vote in the European Parliament, which is due to take place next March.

Czech Republic against strengthening gun control in EU

The Czech Republic does not support the proposal for strengthening control of firearms in the EU presented by the European Commission in November. EURACTIV Czech Republic reports.