Firearms & Ammunition
FIGHT AGAINST ILLEGAL TRAFFICKING IN FIREARMS: EUROPEAN COMMISSION AIMS AT WRONG TARGET
Instead of focusing on illegal activities with firearms and making full use of existing EU rules on legal firearms, the European Commission plans a full review of these rules. The Commission argues that this change is needed since “legally owned weapons in the EU continue to feed the illegal market” and attempts to substantiate this claim by using obscure and altered data, misleading public opinion and passing over its own failure to enforce EU laws.
10 February 2014, Brussels - The Commission recently issued the Communication “Firearms and the internal security of the EU: protecting citizens and disrupting illegal trafficking”. In addition to laying out several actions to specifically deal with illegal activities (which FACE welcomes), the document announces the plan of the Commission to completely change the EU rules on the legal acquisition and possession of civilian firearms.
The Commission argues that legal firearms are lost or stolen due to the absence of EU common standards on their storage, but only relies on obscure and misquoted figures to justify that claim.
The Commission argues that criminals may seek to acquire firearms in Member States with “flexible” rules and misrepresents the existing EU rules on legal firearms (laid down in the Firearms Directive) omitting to mention that the sale and possession of firearms, such as hunting rifles and shotguns, are subject to a strict set of formalities and thorough background checks, barring criminals – and any person who is “likely to be a threat to public security” – from acquiring and possessing firearms.
Finally, according to the Commission, deactivated firearms are being reactivated. In this case, rather than overhauling the Firearms Directive, the Commission should more simply fulfil its obligations and ensure that Member States comply with the legally-binding existing provisions.
In preparation for its Communication, in 2013 the Commission conducted a public consultation about the possibility of introducing (further) EU common standards on legal firearms. However, the Commission decided to disregard the results that gathered responses from 81 000 EU citizens, mostly opposed to further EU action, and subsequently conducted a Eurobarometer survey, with aptly worded questions, leading to more favourable results for the Commission.
FACE Secretary General Filippo Segato underlined the flaws of the Commission’s plans: “Acquiring and owning firearms is already strictly regulated at EU level. Legal firearms owners such as hunters undergo a number of tight controls and do not feed the illegal market in firearms. If Commissioner Malmström wants to tackle illicit trafficking and improve our security, she should focus on fighting criminal organisations instead of diverting public resources to make life harder for legal owners, who are not the problem. The Commission is simply aiming at the wrong target. Furthermore, the methods used by the Commission in this process are very questionable from a democratic point of view and are bound to provoke serious open debate whether the Commission is playing by the EU rules or just playing politics.”
FACE and its Members seek to ensure that hunters can acquire, possess, use and travel with firearms and ammunition safely and without unjustified, bureaucracy, costs or restrictions. Many of these aspects are presently covered by EU law, either through full harmonisation or minimum rules.