Friday

19th Jul 2019

Opinion

How the proposed EU gun directive amendment might backfire

  • Firearms control risks to foster a new culture of black market guns for otherwise law-abiding people. (Photo: reuvenim)

The European Commission proposed (18 November) an amendment to the European Firearms Directive (EFD) as a response to the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Europe.

While the commission aims to make firearms less accessible to terrorists and criminals alike, the outcome of the amendment, if passed, will surely be the opposite.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Shotguns virtually sold out in Austria and were mostly bought by women. (Photo: EUobserver)

It is now known that the firearms the Paris terrorists used were illegal, being either smuggled in from active or past warzones, or illegally reconditioned from insufficiently decommissioned weapons.

Yet, the proposal doesn’t aim at these two sources of illegal firearms.

From an outright ban on semi-automatic rifles “resembling” military assault rifles, the obligatory decommissioning of museum-owned guns, to imposing firearm rules on airsoft replicas, the commission’s proposal only impairs the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Yet, as with drugs or alcohol, such a move is likely to foster a new culture of black market guns for otherwise law-abiding people, leading to growth of the market and as a consequence easier accessibility of illegal firearms to terrorists and criminals.

Slovakian loophole

Clearly, the European Commission needs to show some effort.

Article 13(1) of directive 2008/51/EC, dated 21 May 2008, includes the following: “The commission shall, acting in accordance with the procedure referred to in article 13a(2) of the directive, issue common guidelines on deactivation standards and techniques to ensure that deactivated firearms are rendered irreversibly inoperable.”

Yet, since 2008, the commission has done nothing to close the “insufficiently deactivated firearms” loophole existing in certain countries, prompting member states seeing a rise in the use of such guns to pressure origin countries (especially Slovakia) to change their rules on deactivation.

This having already happened by July 2015, the only effective part of the proposal - enacting common rules on deactivation - is too little too late.

Black market firearms

Meanwhile, the EU has been absolutely incompetent in combating black market firearms.

Perhaps the EU has little influence over law enforcement in member states, however, it already possesses competencies for the protection of external Schengen borders, at which it has utterly failed.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants enter the EU undisturbed and industrial levels of smuggling now even include illegal underground train tunnels and helicopters.

It seems getting the ex-Yugoslav fully automatic Kalashnikov assault rifles (which are banned in the EU) to the 13 November Paris attacks posed no difficulty.

Self defence

With Europe’s security situation deteriorating not only regarding terrorist attacks, but also due to the war in Ukraine and rising crime levels, citizens of member states that culturally and legally approve of legal firearm possession for self defence have voted with their wallets.

Shotguns virtually sold out in Austria (being bought mostly by women) and concealed carry license applications surged in the Czech Republic after remaining basically level between 2000 to 2014.

In order to legally obtain firearms, gun owners in Europe must already go through various forms of background checks and licencing procedures.

Moreover, under the existing EFD, all firearms must be registered.

Opponents have argued for years that gun registrations are a prequel to confiscations, which the European Commission affirms with the proposed ban on semi-automatic rifles that only affects legally-owned and registered guns.

Inadequate official training

Semi-automatic rifles nowadays constitute a popular and fast growing market, especially among young gun owners.

They are used for a variety of purposes, including hunting, sport shooting and, in some countries, home defence.

Beyond strictly private ownership, it is also a well known fact that, in countries like Finland, for example, modern sporting rifles are essential for the training of military reservists.

Between Dutch soldiers shouting “bang” instead of shooting actual ammunition during training and German soldiers using broomsticks in Nato’s most elite units’ exercises as firearms props, it is understandable why many European soldiers and policemen own these guns privately to improve their otherwise inadequate official training.

The proposed ban - and confiscation - of these firearms will make it clear to all legitimate gun owners that anything they buy legally may be taken away at any time, thus driving many to the black market.

Demand drives supply such that the European firearms black market will grow in response to its new customers, making illegal firearms more accessible to criminals and terrorists.

Additionally, the police will be overburdened for years tracking down otherwise law-abiding citizens either refusing to comply with confiscations (tens of thousands of people are likely in the Czech Republic alone as civil disobedience is already being vocally advocated or evading capture when buying an illegal gun for their own protection (as is already happening in countries without legal means of obtaining firearms for self defense).

Not only does the proposed amendment of the EFD do little to nothing to protect European citizens from the current threats, it will, if passed, increase the danger to us all.

Tomas Gawron is a Czech lawyer with professional experience in litigation, competition law and white collar crime defense

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU tables anti-foreign fighters laws

The EU Commission has proposed two pieces of legislation to criminalize travelling and training for terrorist purposes and prevent arms sales to terrorists and crime gangs.

Germany reels after multiple killings

Support for Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel remains high, but the weekend's multiple attacks against civilians have left German society in shock.

Six takeaways on digital disinformation at EU elections

For example, Germany's primetime TV news reported that 47 percent of political social media discussions were related to the extreme-right AfD party, when in fact this was the case only for Twitter - used by only four percent of Germans.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  2. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  3. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  4. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  5. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  6. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  7. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  8. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us