The following is the response from Richard Ashworth MEP, in response to concerns raised regarding the latest EU firearms control measures.
Thank you contacting Richard Ashworth MEP concerning the proposal to amend the EU legislation on the control and possession of weapons (The “Firearms” directive).
As you are aware on 18th November 2015, the European Commission proposed amendments to the current EU Directive which has been in place since 1991 and which was last reviewed in 2008. This new proposal includes elements that will improve the sharing of registers across borders between Member States, enhance the marking of weapons and enable the tracking of deactivated arms, such as those of a historical nature.
In the aftermath of the tragic terrorist attacks last year, it is right that to look at what can be done on a practical basis to tackle terrorism and criminal activities. Effective gun controls are part of this, especially given that some weapons used in the Charlie Hebdo attacks were legally acquired weapons that had been reconverted from blank-firing acoustic weapons into live firearms in Slovakia.
However, there was much discussion about the need to ensure the rules are proportionate and that they tackle real problems supported by real figures. A number of concerns have risen about the new proposals as currently stand, not least the absence of an impact assessment and the lack of clarity of some of the language. These concerns have come from museums, collectors, re-enactors, those involved in the film industry, “airsoft”, sports shooters and those using firearms for pest control as well as military reservists in some countries.
Many parts of the proposal are unclear, which has led to confusion about which semi-automatics are to be banned. The exact nature of the responsibilities for museums, collectors and those doing historical re-enactments is also remains unclear. Furthermore many concerns have been correctly raised in regards to the impact the legislation on activities such as paint balling and the use of guns in films and television productions.
Conservatives in the European Parliament agree on the need for a new directive; but believe there does need to be wider consideration of some of the proposals, particularly in regards to sporting activities. The Commission has agreed its drafting of the proposal is not perfect and has asked parliamentarians to work on it.
Given this, Conservatives in the European Parliament have taken the lead to ensure the views of all stakeholders are heard. Mr Ashworth works closely with his Conservative colleague Vicky Ford MEP, who is the Chairman of the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) committee. Mrs Ford will be leading the European Parliament's work on this file, which involves scrutinising the Commission’s proposal and proposing amendments where necessary. Throughout this process Mr Ashworth will work closely to ensure the report is both fair and balanced. It is completely normal for MEPs to propose amendments to any proposal from the Commission and it is likely to take many months before there is a vote on both the proposal and any amendments.
Mr Ashworth has expressed his concerns regarding deactivated weapons, as the Commission and Member States took 7 years to put in place rules to ensure such firearms are properly rendered inoperable. We need to ensure that these new rules are effective and they clearly need to be taken into consideration during the scrutiny process.
It is also important to clarify what is meant by the need for a medical test to be carried out before a license is granted and the distance selling requirements.
Mr Ashworth will be working closely with colleagues in the coming months to make sure the correct is in place and believes it will also be important to work closely with experts especially those representing stakeholders.
Whilst it is right that at this time to check for any loopholes in the law and improve communication, any new legislation must be coupled with much greater enforcement against illegal arms, crime and terrorism.
Thank you again for contacting Richard Ashworth MEP, he is always pleased to hear from his constituents.