Q&A – Latest proposals for European Firearms Directive

Updated 26th May 2017

The final text of the new Firearms Directive 2017/853 has been published in the EU Journal. It will come into effect on the 13th June 2017. Implementation should be completed by the 13th September 2018.

Several EC regulations are still to be written, including marking requirements, the regulation for alarm guns (i.e. blank firers) and the new version of the deactivation regulation. We can therefore expect much activity over the next 15 months.

1. Can under 18s still own their own firearm?

Young people may continue to own firearms under the current framework in each Member State. There is an additional requirement for adults/parents to store young person’s firearms. BASC will make clear representations when liaising with Government to avoid unworkable restrictions.

2. Will there be more onerous medical requirements?

A provision exists that requires Member States to establish a monitoring system, including the assessment of relevant medical information. It is up to Member States to choose their system. The UK has such a system in place.

3. Can the UK move to ten year certificates?

A provision allows Member States to increase certificate life beyond five years where they operate a system of continuous monitoring of certificate holders.

4. Will semi-automatic rim fire rifles be banned?

.22 calibre semi-automatic rim-fire rifles remain for hunters and target shooters to own. This is regardless of magazine capacity and means the UK will keep the status quo.

5. Will semi-automatic shotguns still be permitted for vermin control in the UK?

Section 1 shotguns for field shooting e.g. avian pest control will be limited to 11 shots (taking into account magazine and chamber). Section 2 shotguns are unaffected.

6. Will practical shooters continue to own higher capacity semi-automatic shotguns?

There are two definitions of ‘semi-automatic’ shotgun in the EU prohibited category A.

  1. ‘long firearms’ which allow the firing of more than 11 rounds without reloading, and;
  2. ‘short firearms’ of less than 60cm in length overall allowing the firing of more than 21 rounds without reloading whether the magazine is integral or detachable.

UK law already prohibits shotguns (regardless of loading mechanism) that have a barrel less than 24 inches (60.96cm) in length or is less than 40 inches (101.6cm) in length overall. As such, the EU definition of ‘short firearm’ does not apply to the UK. UK law will be amended so ‘long’ semi automatic shotguns as defined in 1 above will become prohibited. Only ‘long’ shotguns falling into category B with an overall maximum capacity of 11 shots may be owned by UK citizens for pest control. (see also 6 below).

Therefore; Section 1 shotguns with a magazine capacity exceeding 10 rounds are permitted under the following conditions;

“(a) a satisfactory assessment of relevant information arising from the application of Article 5(2) (i.e. they are medically fit);

(b) provision of proof that the target shooter concerned is actively practising for or participating in shooting competitions recognised by an officially recognised shooting sports organisation of the Member State concerned or by an internationally established and officially recognised shooting sport federation; and

(c) provision of a certificate from an officially recognised shooting sports organisation confirming that:

(i) the target shooter is a member of a shooting club and has been regularly practising target shooting in it for at least 12 months, and

(ii) the firearm in question fulfils the specifications required for a shooting discipline recognised by an internationally established and officially recognised shooting sport federation.”

7. Will military-looking designs be banned?

Firearms (including shotguns) which ‘resemble’ automatic firearms (e.g. those built on AR15/M16, HK MP5, SIG 522 and AK47 actions) will remain in their current UK categories and can be used for hunting and target shooting according to individual Member State laws.

8. Are detachable magazines controlled?

Possession remains unaffected in the UK. However “acquisition” of magazines for semi-automatic shotguns exceeding 10 rounds will be restricted to sport shooters (practical shot-gunners) only. Possession and acquisition of large capacity magazines for rim-fire semi-automatics are exempt as are those for straight pull and other non-semi-automatic firearms.

9. Are semi-automatic handguns caught by the provisions?

Semi-automatic handguns are permitted providing magazine capacity is less than 21.

10. Have sound moderators been restricted?

Sound moderators have not been caught by the proposals. No changes are required for the UK.

11. Are there any changes to the way we transfer firearms?

A “face-to-face” transfer requirement has been introduced but the UK is already compliant.

12. Do dealers require electronic registers in their premises?

No. Article 4 has been clarified so that there is no ambiguity over electronic registers. Instead Article 4 requires dealers to notify transfers of ‘firearms or essential components without undue delay’ to the police via an ‘electronic connection’. This should be a minimal change in law and BASC envisages this should equate to an email or an online portal on a police website.

The UK is already compliant where “sales” are involved. The law will most likely have to be changed to require notifications of other types of transfer.

13. Has home loading of ammunition suffered?

No. Home-loading has been specifically preserved in a proposal.

14. Will security provisions be tightened?

The proposals require Member States to implement security provisions, but it is up to Member States to choose their own systems. The UK’s system is robust and we envisage no changes.

15. Will shotgun cartridges (Section 2) be affected in any way?

No, the status quo remains for the UK for acquisition, possession, storage and use.

16. Will collectors be affected?

The current proposals preserve collecting and allow Member States to permit collectors, museums, film armourers, proof houses, forensic scientists and others to have access to EU Category A (prohibited) firearms where a special case is made out. This includes those who collect disguised firearms (e.g. walking stick shotguns) and ammunition collectors.

17. Will I still be able to make alterations to my own firearms?

Owners may modify their firearms, but not to the point where its EU Category changes. UK laws in this area will still apply.

18. What changes affect air weapons?

Air weapons remain outside the Directive

19. Will deactivated or imitation firearms require registration or licences in the UK?


20. Will new marking requirements apply to firearms and essential components manufactured before the Directive comes into force?


21. When will the directive come into force?

The Directive (if passed in its current format by the EU Council of Ministers) will come into effect 15 months after the Directive is published in the EU Official Journal. This is shorter than the 36 months originally proposed.

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