Has the EU seen sense?

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Europe is set to drop some of the most controversial proposals in its firearms law reform bid, including a proposed ban on semi-automatic guns.

However, shooters don’t seem to be out of the woods yet, with a number of widely criticised proposals, such as the universal requirement for shops to install an electronic gun register, and a requirement that firearms and ammunition must be locked in separate compartments.

After shooting organisations and Vicky Ford MEP – the ‘rapporteur’ on EU Firearms Directive changes – collaborated on a new version of Europe’s firearms law proposals, Ms Ford has formally recommended that any proposals to ban semi-autos are shelved.

It had always looked likely that semi-automatic shotguns would be safe, while .22 rifles came under greater scrutiny – though the wording or the original draft was not entirely clear.

Europe had planned to add any semi-autos that “resemble weapons with automatic mechanisms” to its prohibited Category A list, along with any semi-autos that “can easily be converted to automatic firearms” or having a high magazine capacity.

But the revised proposals, produced after liaison with a number of shooting organisation umbrella body FACE, removes the “resemble” clause as well as any reference to banning.

Ms Ford elaborated in the explanatory statement to her new draft: “It is important to recognise that the vast majority of firearms held legally in the EU do not present any danger to the public. The Commission made a number of proposals that drastically change the scope and requirements of the Directive without presenting an impact assessment.

“Such an IA would have helped clarify the reasons for these proposals as well as the evidence base on which the proposals rest. Its absence has resulted in widespread concern from owners of legally acquired firearms from a number of different areas.”

The revised proposals have mostly garnered positive comment from shooting representatives – but where they continue to stir controversy is the requirement for RFDs to keep a computerised firearms register, a rule the UK nearly brought in and then dropped in late 2014.

A spokesperson for BASC said: “BASC is concerned that this is an entirely disproportionate proposal which will negatively affect the £2.5bn shooting sector. The proposal delivers little obvious benefit and has not been subject to an impact assessment. It will destroy jobs and harm the rural economy.”

The Countryside Alliance railed against a supplementary amendment tabled late in the day, which could see a new requirement for guns and ammo to be stored separately.

Chief executive Tim Bonner said: “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 impose further restrictions on legal firearm holders but be no hindrance to those who commit illegal activities.”

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