Firearms: Updated regulations to increase security and facilitate legal trade
Brussels, October 27th, 2022: Today, the Commission is proposing to update EU rules on the import, export and transit of firearms for civilian use. As many as 35 million illicit firearms are estimated to be in the hands of civilians in the EU, and around 630,000 firearms are listed as stolen or lost in the Schengen Information System. The updated rules will facilitate the legal trade of firearms for civilian use and reduce the administrative burden of firearms manufacturers, dealers and users. The revised rules will enhance security and address firearms trafficking, and will enable coordinated controls and risk assessments to improve the traceability of firearms.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said: “Firearms trafficking feeds organised crime within the EU and breeds political instability in the EU’s neighbourhood. With the development of fast parcel delivery and of new technologies, trafficking of firearms is taking new forms to escape controls. As legislators, we need to catch up. The reform we are proposing will close down the loopholes in the existing rules which are often circumvented, leading to firearms being smuggled and diverted into the EU.”
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, said: “Criminals are constantly changing how they smuggle deadly weapons into the European Union. We need to stay one step ahead. EU internal security to reduce the illegal use and trafficking of firearms must be built on good law enforcement cooperation, good intelligence, and transparent procedures. This proposal does that. Today’s proposal also simplifies rules for legitimate firearms owners and businesses.”
The updated rules will include:
- Clear and common procedures for the import, export and transit of firearms for civilian use, their essential components, ammunitions and alarm and signal weapons. For example, the current proposal will exempt firearms manufacturers, dealers, and users from a fee to obtain an import or export authorisation.
- Simplified import and export procedures for hunters, sport shooters and exhibitors: notably no prior import or export authorisation for hunters with a European Firearms Pass will be required.
- A new EU electronic licensing system for firearms manufacturers and dealers to apply for import and export authorisation, replacing the diverse, mostly paper-based national systems. This new paperless system will save applicants time and simplify the process. The system will also be connected to the EU Single Window Environment for Customs.
- Strict technical standards for alarm and signal weapons, which are devices manufactured to only be able to fire blank, tear gas or irritant ammunition. This will help avoid them being converted into lethal firearms. Any such weapons not complying with these standards would need to be imported as firearms. The Commission will also establish a list of non-convertible alarm and signal weapons, meaning devices which are not capable of being converted to expel a shot, bullet or projectile.
- Stricter rules on semi-finished firearms components. They will be imported only by licensed dealers and brokers, reducing the threat of home-made firearms without marking or registration (“ghost guns”).
- An end-user certificate for the more dangerous firearms. This document will certify that the buyer is the final recipient of the goods and does not plan on transferring them to someone else. This will reduce the risk of diversion of firearms from the legal to the black market during or after export.
- Strict checks on refusals to grant import or export authorisations. National authorities will have to check whether someone applying for an authorisation has already been refused one in another Member State. When an individual will be refused an import or export authorisation, the information will be shared with other Member States. This will prevent individuals from ‘shopping’ in another EU Member State to obtain such authorisation.
It is now for the European Parliament and the Council to examine the proposal. Once adopted, the rules will be directly applicable across the EU.
The illicit flows of firearms, essential components and ammunitions facilitate serious and organised crime, including terrorism. They enable violence and support criminal businesses. Illicit firearms also affect other areas of organised crime, such as trafficking in drugs and human beings.
Today’s proposal was announced in 2020 and concerns firearms for civilian use only. The Russian military aggression in Ukraine increases the potential of proliferation of firearms. In the medium-term, these new rules will help reducing the risk of circumvention of embargos in the case of exports of firearms for civilian use and increasing the controls of the import of this kind of firearms from non-EU countries.
As part of the Security Union Strategy, the Commission adopted the EU Strategy to tackle organised crime and the 2020-2025 Action plan on firearms trafficking. Today’s proposal aims to ensure consistency between the Firearms Directive and the EU Regulation on import and export of civilian firearms. Both texts should regulate the same types of firearms, essential components, and ammunition. The current Regulation mainly regulates the export of firearms for civilian use.