A clearly written letter which addresses the concerns the shooting community may hold regarding the EU Firearms Directive. There will be a detailed comment on the matter in next week's Shooting Times 27th July.

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“Following last week’s vote in the European Parliament IMCO committee I thought it would be helpful to provide further clarification as I appreciate there are remaining concerns amongst the law abiding shooting community.

The EU Commission’s initial proposal to change the EU firearms directive was extremely badly worded and many stakeholders wished the entire package of changes be rejected.  This rejection was put to the vote of the committee last week, but was not supported by a majority of members.   Some of the other initial amendments I proposed were also not supported by a majority, and thus there were negotiations on varied approaches which were all put to the vote.

The Commission initially proposed to add to the Annex A list of prohibited firearms “Semi-automatic firearms for civilian use which resemble weapons with automatic mechanisms”. This was firmly rejected by the committee vote. These items were left back in their original Category B7.

Instead the following was added:

                A7a Semi-automatic firearms with centre fire percussion, and loading devices, with one or more of the following characteristics:

                a) long firearms (i.e. firearms that are originally intended to be fired from the shoulder) that can be reduced to a length of less than 60cm without losing functionality by means of a folding or telescoping stock;

                b) firearms which allow the firing of more than 21 rounds without reloading, if a loading device with a capacity exceeding 20 rounds is part of the firearm or is inserted into it;

                c) in order to acquire a loading device a correspondent firearm authorisation must be presented at the time of acquisition

The following article was also inserted which gives each country the ability to decide to give existing owners and target shooters exemptions.

Member States may decide to confirm authorisations for firearms classified in category A.6 or A.7 and legally acquired and registered before [date of entry into force of amending Directive], and to renew them for the legal owner at that date, subject to the other conditions of this Directive, and may also allow such firearms to be acquired by persons authorised by Member States according to this Directive.

Member States may authorise target shooters to acquire and possess semi-automatic firearms classified in categories A.6 or A.7, subject to the following conditions:

a.       the target shooter participates in shooting competitions organised by an official shooting sport organisation recognised by a Member State or by an internationally established and officially recognised shooting sport federation; and

b.      the target shooter is a member of a recognised shooting club, regularly practises target shooting and has been doing so for at least twelve months.

Target shooters authorised to acquire and possess firearms in categories A.6 or A.7 shall be entitled to have such firearms listed in a European firearms pass pursuant to Article 12(2).

I have been in contact with the International Practical Shooting Confederation as to guidance on the practical implications, which they consider to be as follows.

·         Inserting a magazine that can take more than 20 rounds INTO any centrefire semi-automatic firearm turns it from its original Category B into Category A7. Taking out the magazine returns it back into Category B.

·         Only the acquisition of a loading device needs to be authorised by showing a license. The ownership is excluded from this proposal. As a result loading devices of more than 20 rounds can still be kept, their use is restricted to people with an exemption for Category A7.

·         The intention is to restrict the free sale of loading devices (especially those of a capacity above 20 rounds), while at the same time allow the legitimate use of both the firearms and loading devices in sport. Albeit with some additional administrative paperwork in regards to the application for an exemption.

The committee’s amendments also make it clear that hand loading and reloading for private use is permitted.

The Commission proposed to add a new clause A6 covering “Automatic firearms which have been converted into semi-automatic firearms”.

This is an issue to many legal owners especially in certain Eastern European countries. A number of MEPs proposed to delete this clause but there was not a majority support to do so.  Therefore the IMCO text has added a requirement for the Commission to establish technical specifications to ensure that semi-automatic firearms which have been converted from originally automatic firearms cannot be reconverted into automatic firearms and proposed that A6 will not apply to firearms that have been converted in accordance with those requirements.

Many people have expressed their concern that there was no detailed impact assessment especially for this item.  Dita Charanzova, MEP from the Czech Republic, requested that I write to the European commission asking them to provide further details on concrete types and if available number of firearms of each type which could be affected.

This was supported by MEPs from all the other political groups and I have done this. I have also informed the Commission that their first response did not provide sufficient information and they in turn have asked Member States for more information.

For UK readers I would like to draw their attention to the fact that this only affects centrefire and not rimfire percussion.  This is also clearly specified in the European Council text at the request of the UK Home Office who have told me that they support keeping the status quo for rimfire rifles in the UK.

The vote of the European Parliament IMCO committee is not a final decision.  There will now need to be another vote by the committee whether or not to enter into negotiations with the European Council – so called “trialogue” discussions.

MEPs may wish to wait for the information that has been requested from the Commission especially regarding A6 and A7 before these are negotiated in trialogue, for example on whether further clarity is needed to distinguish between semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic shotguns.

During the trialogue discussion it is often the case that further clarification or technical adjustments can be made.

I am very grateful to the many stakeholder groups and shooting organisations who have given expert guidance.   If readers have further technical concerns  that they believe have not been addressed please can they raise them through these organisations.

Yours,

 

Vicky Ford MEP

East of England

Chairman, European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee “