Gun collectors could be forced to apply for a licence and undergo background checks even if they only own deactivated weapons if European Union (EU) officials get their way. Critics have called the proposed legislation “excessive,” and have accused the EU of harassing responsible gun owners.
EU officials have deemed the last round of regulations, introduced in 2008, to be inadequate, claiming that they leave Europe “vulnerable to criminal activity.” European leaders have agreed, vowing in the wake of the Paris attacks to “rapidly examine” the new proposals with the intention of approving them at a summit in February. The new laws would then come into effect in July, The Local has reported.
Among other measures, the draft law will ban the ownership of all Category A firearms throughout the European Member States, even when such guns are deactivated. Only museums which are approved by the government would be able to own such weapons, while all other collectors would have to give them up.
Collectors would also be forced to hand over any disguised firearms, such as walking stick shotguns, even when deactivated; likewise, ammunition collectors may be affected even if they don’t own a weapon capable of firing the ammunition.
In the UK, collectors already need to be licensed but this requirement would be rolled out across the rest of the EU. In addition, all licence holders will need to reapply every five years, and a “standard medical test” for all applicants will be rolled out.
Firearms dealers and brokers will also face stricter controls and for the first time will be forced to comply with “competence checks” in addition to criminal and safety checks, which would include checks on the “private and professional integrity” of dealers and their staff.
And the legislation will outlaw a range of weapons, including a ban on all semi-automatic firearms which look like military weapons. This would amount to a constructive ban on the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles on the Continent, as well as affecting Britain’s .22 semi-automatic market and taking semi-automatic pistols out of circulation.
Blank-firing weapons and other replica weapons would also be caught by the legislation.
A spokesman for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said: “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.”
The Austrian gun lobby, however, has been more forthcoming in its condemnation of the measures. They have slammed the proposals for all gun owners to pass medical tests as “harassment,” and the proposals in general as “excessive”.
Dr Georg Zakrajsek, the secretary of Austria’s gun lobby organisation IWO (Interessengemeinschaft liberales Waffenrecht in Osterreich), said that many women had been buying weapons following the attacks which took place across Europe on New Year’s Eve. The new laws, he said, would see these women and “a large number of otherwise law abiding citizens unknowingly criminalized”.
In a recent blog on the IWO site, he added: “And the advice you get is useless, stupid and dangerous. Judging by the “experts”, women should not defend themselves, they should hand over all possessions when confronted (by a criminal), they must not obstruct their escape routes, and they must endure sexual assaults defenceless. This is an impertinence towards women. These experts believe that the women are just stupid.
“Therefore: Women, Arm yourself! Finally start to lay down your victimhood!”
Between 2001 and 2014, the number of crimes committed by foreigners in Austria increased by a staggering 90 percent. By comparison, the rise in crime within the Austrian population during the same period was just six percent.
“The additional 200,000 plus of foreign refugees known to have entered the country has a lot of people worried,” one police officer confided. He added that, as well as women, many police officers are now buying weapons for personal use.
Austrian MEP Harald Vilimsky, a keen sportsman himself, has also slammed the proposals. “This is a panicked measure from the EU Commission, which is now trying to criminalise law-abiding citizens who are gun owners legally and for legitimate reasons.
“By having open borders we invite terrorists to tour Europe with a backpack full of illegal Kalashnikovs and hand grenades, yet respectable citizens are limited the right to bear arms for the sake of self-defence,” he added.
“Does the EU Commission believe in all seriousness that terrorists would walk into a gun shop, seek advice there, and shop for their next bloody deed?
“Restricting law abiding citizens from acquiring firearms will not even begin to control neither terrorism nor the thriving black markets. This is being billed as an anti-terror measure, but in practice it will only rob blameless and righteous citizens of their legitimate right to defence of life, limb and property.”