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22nd Feb 2020

EU scrambles to finalise gun-control reforms

  • The Jewish supermarket shooters used reactivated decomissioned guns legally purchased in Slovakia (Photo: Ben Ledbetter)

EU institutions are struggling to agree measures to further restrict access to weapons such as semi-automatic rifles, as negotiators prepare for another round of talks on Monday (5 December) evening.

Negotiators are attempting to amend an EU directive on firearms to restrict criminal and terrorist access to semi-automatic rifles and tighten rules on deactivated weapons.

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But the bill, proposed by the European Commission, has come under fire over concerns it may also make it more difficult for sports shooters, reservists, and hunters to legally own the guns.

The European Parliament's lead negotiator Vicky Ford, a British conservative MEP, said last week they were aiming for a workable solution but that "many other elements of the commission's proposal were and remain unacceptable".

"We want to make sure that any revision of the rules works for the many trusted and responsible legal gun holders," she said.

Details of the sticking points remain vague given the secret nature of legislative deliberations among the three EU institutions - the commission, the parliament and the EU Council representing member states.

An EU source told this website that the EU parliament and member states have yet to fully align their views on the text.

"I think she [Ford] is still fighting to have a deal on Monday but she says it depends a lot on the council, if they really get closer to parliament's position in some aspects," noted the official.

"To be honest, I'm not sure if there will be a deal on Monday."

The official said negotiators were making last-minute changes on wording and that the two sides still couldn't agree on whether to make "national monitoring" mandatory or not.

But they have reached agreement in other areas. Ford said they had managed to close a loophole that allowed people to purchase blank-firing guns that have been converted into deadly weapons.

The loophole has been exploited by criminals and terrorists in the past. A separate EU-wide regulation on the deactivation of firearms was also implemented earlier this year. Guns used in the Paris Jewish supermarket shooting were traced back to Slovakia.

"These were real fully automatic assault rifles, which were then deactivated and then easily reactivated again," Nils Duquet from the Flemish Peace Institute, a research institute of the Flemish Parliament, told this website in early November.

The EU police agency, Europol, also noted in a report out last week that "it is possible to obtain firearm parts legally via the internet, as well as deactivated firearms to be converted back later for operational use".

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