The European Commission (EC) adopted on November 18 2015 a package of measures to make it more difficult to acquire firearms in the European Union, better track legally held firearms and strengthen co-operation among EU countries.
The gun control proposals presented on November 18 were foreseen in the European Security Agenda adopted in April 2015, but have been significantly accelerated in light of recent events, the EC said.
“The Commission is hereby supporting member states in their efforts to protect Europe’s citizens and prevent criminals and terrorists from accessing weapons.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The recent terrorist attacks on Europe’s people and values were co-ordinated across borders, showing that we must work together to resist these threats. Today’s proposal, prepared jointly by Commissioners Elżbieta Bieńkowska and Dimitris Avramopoulos,will help us tackle the threat of weapons falling into the hands of terrorists.
“We are proposing stricter controls on sale and registration of firearms, and stronger rules to irrevocably deactivate weapons. We will also come forward with an action plan in the near future to tackle illicit arms trafficking. Organised criminals accessing and trading military grade firearms in Europe cannot and will not be tolerated,” Juncker said.
The package of measures includes stricter rules to ban certain semi-automatic firearms, which will not, under any circumstance, be allowed to be held by private persons, even if the firearms have been permanently deactivated.
There will be tighter rules on the online acquisition of firearms, to avoid the acquisition of firearms, key parts or ammunition through the internet.
The plans envisages EU common rules on marking of firearms to improve the traceability of weapons.
There will be better exchange of information among EU countries, for example on any refusal of authorisation to own a firearm decided by another national authority, and obligation to interconnect national registers of weapons.
It also foresees ommon criteria concerning alarm weapons, for example, distress flares and starter pistols) in order to prevent their conversion into fully functioning firearms.
There will be stricter conditions for the circulation of deactivated firearms.
And there will be stricter conditions for collectors, to limit the risk of sale to criminals.
The proposed amendments which the EC has tabled now need to be approved by the European Parliament and Council.
There will be what is known as an “implementing regulation”, setting out common and strict criteria on the way EU countries must deactivate weapons so that they are rendered inoperable. The possession of the most dangerous firearms – even if they are deactivated – will no longer be allowed.
The implementing regulation is based on the criteria for deactivation developed by the Permanent International Commission for the Proof of Small Arms (the CIP).
Following approval of the draft regulation by EU member states in a comitology committee on November 18, the European Commission formally adopted the text. The regulation will be published immediately in the EU’s Official Journal and will enter into force after three months.
Today’s package of measures to strengthen the control of firearms within the EU is based on a detailed evaluation of the implementation of the Firearms Directive carried out by the Commission last year in the context of its Regulatory Fitness programme (REFIT), which aims to ensure that existing EU regulation is fit for purpose.
To ensure the best practical results on the deactivation of firearms, the Commission will regularly review and update the technical specifications laid down in this regulation.
There is also to be an action plan against the illegal trafficking of weapons and explosives
Issues to be tackled in this future action plan will include:
- The illegal purchase of weapons on the black market;
- The control of illegal weapons and explosives in the internal market (especially from the Balkan countries or ex-war zones); and
- The fight against organised crime.
While arms trafficking is mainly a national competence, given the clear cross-border dimension there is a need for stronger police and intelligence service coordination and stronger import checks, the EC said.
The EU will propose actions to support member states’ activities, building on the Action Plan on illicit trafficking in firearms between the EU and the Western Balkans. The EU-Western Balkans summit of Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs on December 7 will be a further opportunity to take stock of progress on the action plan, the EC said.