The Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) committee of the European Parliament voted on July 13th on the compromise amendments concerning the modification of the European firearms directive, now in-famously known as the "EU gun ban"
In the early afternoon of Wednesday, July 13th, 2016, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) committee of the European Parliament voted on the so-called "compromise amendments" concerning the dossier on the possible restrictive modifications to the directive 91/477/EC on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons, as already modified by the directive 2008/51/EC. The original draft, introduced in November 2015 by the European Commission, planned severe limitations to civilian gun ownership, including a complete ban on the so-called "Category B7" firearms − those semi-automatic firearms bearing a cosmetic resemblance to military firearms − so much that it came to be known within the European gun owners community as the "EU gun ban".
A Pyrrhic victory?
The IMCO members went to vote on July 14th at around 3:45 p.m. following an intense phase of negotiations on compromise agreements. While the list included some technically acceptable measures (eg. common canons for the demilitarization of full-automatic firearms for civilian sales, and common manufacturing specs for blank firing guns to prevent their easy conversion to fire real ammunition), the poorly and hastily drafted compromise also included amendments that have the potential to severely damage the everyday life of law-abiding sport shooters EU-wide, as well as the livelihood of gun manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.
While IMCO rapporteur Vicky Ford stated during the discussion that the compromise amendments do not include «Restrictions on high-capacity magazines, it just says that you can acquire a magazine if you have a permission [...]», one of the adopted amendments, more specifically amendment 12b, bans «Long firearms (i.e. firearms that are originally intended to be fired from the shoulder) that can be reduced to a length of less than 60cm without losing functionality by means of a folding or telescoping stock», as well as those «firearms which allow the firing of more than 21 rounds without reloading, if a loading device with a capacity exceeding 20 rounds is part of the firearm or inserted into it».
While the European Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) and the Italian National Association of Hunting and Sporting Firearms and Ammunition Manufacturers declared themselves to be "moderately satisfied" of the outcomes of the vote, and looking forward for some "remaining critical points" to be fixed during the incoming trialogue, as pointed out by many shooters who criticized FACE's press release on the organization's Facebook page, this norm − depending from its interpretation and implementation by the EU itself and the national governments of the Member States − has the full potential to enact a blanket ban on all semi-automatic firearms that feed through detachable magazines, including hunting rifles and all handguns.
While the compromise amendments include specific exceptions for "sport shooters", the same amendments define "sport shooters" as those shooters who have been members of State-recognized shooting federations for some time and engage in a certain number of shooting competitions each year; this can be identified as a blatant coercion, and thus as a violation to the right of free association as set forth by the national Constitutions of many Member States and by Europe itself. Plus, being those exceptions not mandatory for Member States to implement, a blanket ban on those firearms and magazines could be enacted by national governments simply by refusing to grant exceptions at all.
All in all, the results of the vote seem no reason for organizations to rejoice, and definitely not apt to "close loopholes exploited by terrorists", as Vicky Ford stated, but merely an attempt by IMCO to get rid of a political football, a very controversial topic that has been met by an unprecedented level of cohesive, unitary, strong opposition by the European gun owners community.
As the Firearms United network points out, European gun owners are not willing to compromise and give away yet another "slice of salami", no matter how small − not after having been forced to accept increasing restrictions for decades, by their national governments and by the European Union itself, for the deeds of madmen, criminals and terrorists whom they have nothing to do with.
Same judgment came today from the Deutscher Jagdverband e.V., the German hunters association: while better than the original Commission's proposal, the text voted by IMCO is still deeply flawed, totally inadequate to fight crime and terrorism, and prejudicial to the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Trialogue in September
With the IMCO text being different from both the Commission's requests and the Council's proposals, a tripartite dialogue is set to start in Autumn; grounds for the trialogue will be laid in September, upon Vicky Ford's request − this meaning that much probably, the planned deadline for the plenary vote at the European Parliament, tentatively set for November, will have to be postponed.
Even more so because it has been made very clear to the Commission that an impact assessment will have to be submitted for the trialogue; the Commission itself refused so far to submit said assessment − a mandatory step in Commission-initiated EU legislative procedure. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, seems to have already rejected the demand with a letter to Vicky Ford dated July 13th and full of half-truths and straw-grabbing.
Should the European Parliament remain true to its word, it is unlikely that the trialogue will get anywhere without a serious impact assessment − a document whose drafting could require up to one year and would call for the voices and solid, objective data from all stakeholders to be taken in consideration. It's a common opinion among pro-gun observers that the main (if not only) reason why said mandatory impact assessment has so far been carefully avoided is that the Commission, the Council, and the Member States that support the restrictive proposals are all too aware that said assessment would show that any restriction would cause an enormous economic burden for the national governments and for the EU itself, would be disastrous for the legal gun trade, and would have no positive impact on public safety.