FACE UK Campaign – The Firearms Directive
Where do your MEPs stand on changes to the Firearms Directive?
The proposed directive has been published. BASC has already identified discrepancies and contradictions. Our initial assessment is below, but please note that this is likely to change as these proposals move through scrutiny. Where we use the word “directive” we mean the proposed directive.
What is the EU Commission proposing for firearms?
The Commission is proposing a number of changes to the EU Firearms Directive (91/477/EEC) following recent terrorist atrocities. Proposals include the following:
- Introduction of a five year ceiling to certificate life.
- Introduction of a ‘standard medical test’ for applicants.
- Bringing ‘collectors’ and ‘sound moderators’ within the scope of the directive.
- Regulating blank firing and other replicas.
- Banning the ownership of EU category A firearms (such as machine guns) even when deactivated.
- Introduction of ‘competence checks’ for firearms dealers and brokers in addition to safety/criminal checks.
- Tightening of the distance sales for firearms dealers.
- A proposed ban on “semi-automatic firearms for civilian use which resemble weapons with automatic mechanisms”.
- Introducing stricter specifications on deactivated firearms.
- Introduction of stricter marking and tracing rules.
How might this affect UK legislation?
Whilst the draft proposals are subject to process and scrutiny and are at an early stage; the current wording could mean an obligation on the UK to legislate in the following areas:
- A five year ceiling on certificate life. A certificate is only as good as the supporting vetting and intelligence. BASC and the National Police Chief Council lead on Firearms Licensing are working towards a ten year certificate with appropriate safeguards. The EU proposal prevents continuous improvement and the adoption of improved risk management techniques.
- Semi-automatic Firearms
- Some military looking semi-automatic .22 rim-fire rifles could be restricted. This will be difficult because some rifles can be fitted with after-sale military style furniture.
- For Northern Ireland we do not believe that semi-automatic handguns are caught by the current proposals as they do not resemble ‘automatic’ firearms.
- Semi-automatic shotguns fall outside the intent of the proposal and most do not resemble ‘automatic’ weapons but some specialist combat shotguns could be caught.
- Standard medical tests could be introduced beyond our current system. It is too early to say whether or not definitions used within the directive will mean that our current systems are actually compliant.
- EU Category A weapons – Collectors
- The proposals would bring collectors within the scope of the Directive. In the UK collectors are licensed so we are probably compliant with the Commission’s proposals.
- Collectors would no longer be able to own ‘deactivated’ weapons which fall into EU category A (such as machine guns). Only museums approved by the UK government would be allowed to keep their collections although they must be deactivated.
- Collectors would no longer be able to own disguised firearms such as Walking Stick Shotguns. Ammunition collectors may also be affected.
- Sound Moderators would be brought into the Directive. However the UK already treats them as licensable ‘accessories’ and we are therefore probably compliant with the Directive.
- Blank firing replica guns and other replicas would be caught by the directive. Currently the proposals restrict to specific purposes such as theatrical and television productions. Dog training has not yet been considered.
- Firearms Dealers
- Although the UK has some of the most stringent gun laws in the world, the EU proposals would include checks on the ‘private and professional integrity’ of dealers and their servants.
- Procedures for distance purchase of components will be tightened; it is too early to say to what extent any changes may hinder trade unreasonably and therefore be open to legal challenge.
- Traceability rules may be tightened in terms of police records, and dealers may be required to keep records for longer than 20 years.
- Requirements for serial and other marks may be changed. Manufacturers would have to comply with standards set by the directive for firearms and ammunition packaging.
- Deactivation Standards are to be tightened and a draft regulation is being considered and should come into effect early in 2016. We believe UK standards are largely compliant and no action need be taken until a deactivated weapon is sold or transferred, at which time it would have to be brought up to the new EU standard.
What Is BASC doing about it?
BASC is engaging with the following organisations:
- The Home Office
- The Department of Justice (Northern Ireland)
- The Federation of European hunting associations – FACE – which is in direct contact with the Commission.
- Sister organisations including the British Shooting Sports Council (BSSC).
BASC’s view is that in the wake of terrorist atrocities a separate legal instrument, and not the Firearms directive is more appropriate to deal with the illegal use of firearms across the EU.
Whatever the mechanism BASC believes that an impact assessment will help policymakers agree actions which are outcome based and which avoid unintended consequences which harm legitimate firearms users.
Once a final draft of the Commission’s proposal is available, and laid before the European Parliament, we will advise BASC members how to contact their MEPs, and which areas should be amended, opposed or supported.
We have been asked whether members should sign one of the many petitions currently circulating. Our advice is that members should ensure that any petition they sign is respectful in tone.
We will work tirelessly with policy makers to ensure that bad laws are not imposed on shooting and law-abiding citizens.
What will happen next?
The proposals are subject to process and scrutiny. Developments can be followed here:-
Update – 10 December 2015
Tell Europe what you think about their firearms proposals
BASC is calling on everyone who shoots to contact the European Commission to give their feedback to proposals for changing the Firearms Directive.
As Britain’s largest shooting organisation, we have provided a step-by-step guide to the feedback form on the Commission’s website.
Click here to leave feedback.
In the boxes for completing personal details, in the first box “Representing” choose ‘citizen’ if writing as an individual, ‘company’ if representing a trade interest and ‘Non-governmental organisation’ if responding for a club or association.
In the main feedback box we suggest you ‘cut and paste’ the following text:
“I support evidence-based actions to stop the flow of illegal weapons, so long as these are effective, proportionate and based on the principles of better regulation.
I have concerns about the proposals which may have damaging, unintended consequences and hope that the Commission will fulfil its pledge not to harm the legitimate use of sporting firearms for hunting.
In particular, I am concerned by your proposals for:
A five year ceiling on certificate life: It is appropriate risk assessment and monitoring, not certificate length, which delivers public safety. It should be up to Member States to determine an appropriate length for certificate life given their risk management and monitoring processes.
Standard medical tests: It is important for there to be a medical component in the license approval process, but this should not require standardised testing, which could simply lead to burdensome, non-risk based examinations which would not provide additional benefits to public safety. Member States must be enabled to determine the correct approach based on wider risk management and monitoring processes.
Under 18s: The proposed text is highly likely to harm legitimate shooting as it creates legal uncertainty and restricts opportunities for young persons to be introduced to hunting. A return to the existing wording of the Directive would deal with this.
Humane dispatch: I am concerned that the proposed amendments would ban pistol ammunition used for humane dispatch of wounded animals.
Deactivation and Blank firing replicas: I am concerned that your proposals could affect blank firing replicas which are used in the UK for dog training. Dangers from these can be managed through specifications for their construction rather than a ban. I believe that the EU should adopt the UK deactivation standard.
Semi-automatic rifles: In the UK, .22 rim-fire rifles are an essential pest control tool. If the amendments are only designed to affect large calibre military-style weapons I trust that small calibre sporting rifles will be excluded.”
Once the text is inserted, the next box allows you to attach a document. There is no requirement to do so.
The next box asks you to choose whether or not your feedback will be published anonymously or with your name.
Once you’ve copied the numbers in the ‘captcha’ field, remember to tick the box confirming that you’ve read and agree with the personal data treatment provisions which confirm that the EU will respect user privacy.
Finally, click on ‘Send your feedback’.