Firearm legislation continues to be a contentious topic in the United States, with citizens and lobbyist groups on both sides of the issue calling for radical changes to the laws set in place to regulate the purchase and ownership of firearms, but rarely do we hear about changes in the laws regarding firearms from countries elsewhere in the world. On Tuesday, the European Union met to decide on new gun laws that would be enforced across all 28 member nations, a move many nations felt was a necessary reaction to terrorist attacks in European nations in recent years.
Islamic extremists killed 12 people in the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January of 2015, and another terrorist attack claimed the lives of 130 people in Paris last November. At the time, legislation was proposed within the EU to restrict access to high-caliber rifles throughout the European market, but it failed to pass a vote.
This new legislation had intended to ban all semi-automatic rifles from private sale on the continent, as well as limiting magazines to 10 rounds or less, but was met with harsh criticism from the diverse membership of the European Union. Finland, for instance, felt such strict regulations would harm the training practices of their voluntary reservist military clubs, which are an important part of defense for a nation that shares more than 800 miles of border with Russia.
“This agreement provides for tighter controls which will help prevent the acquisition of firearms by terrorist and criminal organisations,” said Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak.
The new legislation includes a requirement for standardized markings on components to make them easier to track after purchase, as well as a requirement to register all weapons sales in an online law enforcement database. It also mandates that firearms converted for film and theatrical use, modified to fire only blank rounds, must be registered as well. It was reported that the extremists tied to ISIS that attacked Paris last year did so using weapons that had been modified to fire blanks for film, but were converted back after they acquired them.
“We have fought hard for an ambitious deal that reduces the risk of shootings in schools, summer camps, or terrorist attacks with legally held firearms,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement.
Other changes to the firearm regulations enacted by the EU in 1991 include the banning of firearms that can be folded or otherwise concealed in unique ways, as well as magazine limitations based on the length of the firearm they are intended to be used in.
“Of course we would have liked to go further, but I am confident that the current agreement represents a milestone in gun control in the EU,” Juncker said.
This bill saw fierce debate, with some nations seeking exemptions from the legislation for their citizens that participate in clubs or collect firearms. Other nations, like Finland, which requires military service from all male citizens, feared the stricter laws could hinder their ability to defend themselves against an invasion from larger nations like Russia.
However, Finland’s interior minister, Paula Risikko, accepted the modified legislation happily. “I am very pleased with the outcome,” she told reporters on Tuesday.
With many terrorist organizations finding increasing success with attacks that do not require firearms or explosives, such as truck attacks in France earlier this year and the recent tragedy in Berlin, it remains to be seen if this legislation will curb violence within the European Union or if the current trend in terrorist methodology has already removed the teeth from the new law.
Featured image courtesy of REUTERS