The European Council proposes a ban on semi-automatic .22 rimfires and that shooters must lock up shotgun cartridges, despite widespread opposition to existing proposals

Shooting organisations have expressed concern that further “draconian” amendments to the EU Firearms Directive have been tabled by the European Council, despite a number of MEPs already agreeing that existing proposals are “rushed” and “irrelevant”.

Plans to tighten European gun laws were brought forward by the European Commission following the terrorist attacks in Paris last year. While some of the proposals, such as improved traceability of firearms, have been welcomed, other suggestions concerning medical tests and age limitations have been criticised by shooting groups and MEPs. They believe that the suggestions restrict legitimate shooters and do nothing to combat terrorism, which was the main objective of the proposed amendments.

Ammunition to be locked in separate compartments

Now, however, supplementary proposals have been tabled, including requirements that firearms and ammunition (including shotgun ammunition) must be locked in separate compartments, while another suggests the banning of all semi-automatic firearms with the ability to hold more than six rounds without reloading. The Countryside Alliance described this proposal as “completely preposterous” and highlighted that it would include almost all semi-auto .22 long rifle rimfires in the UK.

BASC has also singled out proposals to require gunshops to link their firearms registers to central computerised systems as “potentially damaging “ for rural businesses. It said:” The costs of introducing approved computer systems could be cost-prohibitive for many smaller gunshops, which may go out of business as a result.”

Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner further criticised the proposed amendments: “The European Council believes it needs quick-fire legislation to gain back public trust in the fight against the terrorism; unfortunately, as we have continually stated, these proposals will have no effect on terrorists but a significant effect on the legal shooting community.

“There are improvements that can be made to the Firearms Directive, be it enhanced traceability across member states or updated deactivation regulations. However the Countryside Alliance will not stand for ill-judged and knee-jerk decisions that will improse further restrictions on legal firearms holders but be no hindrance to those who commit illegal activities.”

Only one person defending plans

Vicky Ford, the British MEP leading the European Parliament’s scrutiny of the proposals, has previously described the proposals as “a rushed text with a number of unintended consequences” and there appears to be little ministerial support for the amendments as they currently stand. Other MEPs have called the original proposals “rushed” legislation made in response to a “non-existing problem” and “a good example of bad law-making”. It was also noted that only one person could be found to defend the plans at a recent European Parliamentary committee meeting.