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Firearms proposal: impact on law-abiding citizens dominates EP committee debate

Concerns about the impact that a revised EU firearms directive could have on legal owners of guns in the EU, such as sport shooters, hunters, collectors and museums, were voiced by most MEPs in Internal Market Committee’s kick-off debate on the proposal on Tuesday. The draft revision was proposed by the EU Commission after the 13 November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.

MEPs said that the changes they will table to the Commission’s text will aim to make it clearer and to ensure that the revision is proportionate. While some MEPs pointed out that terrorists do not usually acquire weapons via legal channels, many recognised that an update could usefully close loopholes in the current firearms directive.

For Internal Market Committee chair Vicky Ford (ECR, UK), who will steer the legislation through Parliament, the Commission’s proposal “is poorly drafted” and “needs a lot of work”. She regretted the lack of an impact assessment and cited concerns expressed to MEPs by legal owners. “The Commission is no longer in the driver’s seat of this proposal”, she said, stressing that Members of the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers will now co-decide on the draft law.

Deactivation, draft provisions to ban semi-automatic weapons that “resemble” full automatics, authorisation conditions, convertibility into live firearms, distance (online) sales and safe storage were among the topics discussed by MEPs. They said they wished to strengthen the good parts of the revision, but to get rid of those that create disproportionate burdens for law-abiding citizens.

The discussion paper presented by Ms Ford during the debate, which will feed into the preparation of draft amendments to the Commission proposal, is available here: working document on the control of the acquisition and possession of weapons

Next steps

On 15 March the Internal Market Committee will hold a public hearing on this proposal, at which experts and stakeholders will be able to state their views and express their concerns to MEPs.

According to the Commission, recent terrorist attacks included cases in which “firearms were illegally assembled with components legally bought via Internet”. Several sources also point to the possible use of reactivated firearms in the 2015 terrorist attacks.


The EU firearms directive (Directive 91/477/EEC as amended by Directive 2008/51/EC) lays down the rules under which private persons can acquire and possess weapons (i.e. civil use of firearms), and also governs transfers of firearms to another EU country.

In the European Agenda on Security for 2015-2020 and its 2016 Work Programme, the Commission promised to review the existing firearms legislation in 2016 to improve information sharing, reinforce traceability, standardise marking, and establish common standards for neutralising firearms.

In the light of the terrorist attacks in Europe last year, it decided to accelerate this work – the revision of the EU firearms directive was tabled on 18 November 2015 -, and also presented an action plan to combat illegal trafficking of weapons and explosives on 2 December 2015.

In the chair: Vicky Ford (ECR, UK)