Europe is set to drop some of its most controversial proposals in its bid to reform firearms law, including a ban on semi-auto .22 rifles.
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 changes to the EU Firearms Directive – worked together on a new version of Europe’s firearms law proposals, Ms Ford has formally recommended that any proposals to ban semi-automatic firearms for civilian use are shelved.
Additionally, under-18s’ access to firearms has been safeguarded as long as basic checks are met, and the door has been reopened to the possibility of a 10-year firearms licence.
Europe’s initial plans were 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 those with 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 said 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.”
In addition, the Countryside Alliance railed against a supplementary amendment tabled late in the day, which could see a new requirement for rifles 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.”