Against EU Gun Ban: the Firearms United conference at the European Parliament
The Firearms United network co-hosted the long-awaited conference on the proposed EU Gun Ban at the European Parliament in Brussels, on November 16th, in collaboration with the ECR and ALDE groups – and here's what happened
An absolutely packed room: the firearms conference co-hosted on November 16th by the Firearms United network in collaboration with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), the European Conservative and Reformists group (ECR) and with the intervention of the European People's Party (EPP) couldn't hope for a better start.
One year after the bloody terror attacks on Paris that sparked the European Commission's restrictive amendment proposals to the European firearms directive – now in-famously known as the "EU Gun Ban" – the issue was debated for the first time in a conference at the European Parliament that was open to public attendance and participation, and chaired by German ECR MEP Bernd Kölmel.
Two panels with five or six members each animated a conference whose importance increased almost independently from the will of its organizers well before the date was set, with more and more MEPs signing in to join in or just assist – a clear sign of how the EU Gun Ban plans are a hot topic, particularly given the unexpectedly cohesive and solid, almost unanimous and very vocal opposition from basically all European gun owners.
It is essential for the credibility and legitimacy of the European Union and its Institutions and the EU law,
that all restrictive legislations, especially if retroactive and affecting people and legal properties,
should be proportionate, fair and balanced.
Unfortunately, the proposed new Firearms Directive
IS NOT proportionate, fair and balanced.
The proposed almost total ban of semiautomatic sporting rifles has NOTHING TO DO with criminality and terrorism
(Jussi Halla Aho - ECR group)
The commission's positions
The conference opened with the remarkably negative intervention of European Commission representative Alain Alexis.
Much to the chagrin of the audience, and despite the unbelievable mix of old lies and desperate straw-clutching that Alexis resorted to when pressured by questions, he confirmed that the Commission intends to uphold its restrictive proposals and keep pushing for a far-reaching ban.
As usual, the Commission states that "some semi-automatic firearms" (the so-called "Category B7" modern sporting firearms, never once positively identified by Alexis) are "particularly dangerous" and should thus be forbidden for civilian purchase, ownership, or use, with little to no exception, even for collectors.
"Demilitarized" firearms – e.g. those full-automatic firearms permanently converted to semi-automatic operation for civilian purposes – are identified as "Israeli and Russian military surplus" and as "still machineguns", thus to be banned. Full-automatic firearms should not be allowed to be kept by collectors or museums.
semi-automatic fire is more effective
than full-automatic fire for massacres
Mr. Alain Alexis continued stating that magazines should be limited in capacity because "it's a fact that semi-automatic firearms have been used in the vast majority of mass killings in Europe in the past decade" and because "semi-automatic fire is more effective than full-automatic fire for massacres". and the EU should be allowed to impose strict medical criteria to all member States to be mandatorily implemented upon release and renewal of all gun licenses because "if a person with eyeglasses takes them off, he or she will not be able to shoot" - without specifying if that would apply to combat shooting, self-defense, or ISSF 10 meter airgun.
After these precious statements from the European Commission representative, the conference hall has been filled up with not really technical comments, laughs and a couple of yells also.
Adding up to the mix is the usual babbling about terrorism and mass shooting such as the Utøya island massacre – and many of the guests refered to it as nothing short of an insult to the entire category of law-abiding gun owners. As stated in a document released exactly the same day of the Conference - in short:
Following two trilogue meetings, the co-legislators were still unable to agree on the revision of the Firearms Directive.
These negotiations must be unblocked to take military grade assault weapons off the streets including those converted to semi-automatic use.
The Commission's position is clear that semi-automatic assault weapons derived from the "AK 47 Kalashnikov family" and the "AR 15 family" should be banned for civilian use given that they were designed for military use.
Magazine sizes for short and long firearms should be limited to 10 rounds and should be subject to authorisation and stringent checks and any derogation should be strictly limited and tightly controlled.
EU citizens expect swift progress in this area to ensure their protection, so we must reach agreement before the end of 2016 on this key piece of legislation.
One thing is now adamantly certain: the European Commission is clutching at straws to pursue an unpopular and hardly justified political agenda, and will not eat anything back, not by a long shot. There is still a long way to go, and to fight.
Read: Second Progress report towards an effective and genuine Security Union / by the European Commission
Updates from the trialogue
British ECR MEP Vicky Ford, main rapporteur for the EU Gun Ban dossier at IMCO, upon providing the audience with an update from the currently ongoing trialogue talks wished to warmly thank all European gun owners who contacted the Members of the European Parliament to inform them and make their mind clearer upon a dossier which Ford herself defined as nothing short of critical, particularly in the insanely restrictive early proposals of the Commission.
Progress is being made, particularly concerning points such as the deactivation rules that were hastly drafted by the Commission in December – almost eight years overdue – and mandatory for all Member States to implement ever since April 2016.
More specifically, the European Parliament seems to be kin to recognize the validity of those deactivation rules implemented by individual Member States that granted that deactivated firearms could never be reactivated again. This would allow the firearms deactivated in the Member States that enforce effective rules to be exported and transported EU-wide even if they don't follow EC's latest rules.
Concerning Category B7 firearms, both co-decisors – the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union – seem to be agreeing upon rejecting the restrictive proposals of the Commission.
It's a pity to know that it would still be illegal to use a firearm with a magazine holding more than 20 rounds – although "exceptions" would be granted and enforced for sport shooters – but the matter is still open for discussion and improvement.
On the other hand, demilitarized firearms (full-automatics converted to semi-auto for civilian sales) are still risking a ban, although with the possibility of grandfathering for those that still exist; but Firearms United's source seem to indicate that there is no widespread consent on this, and that those firearms will remain a matter of discussion for quite some more time.
In terms of medical standards for the release and renewal of gun licenses, the European Parliament doesn't seem kind to impose a set of determined canons and standards to all Member States, but MS would be forced to have a system that would ensure that some level of medical examination is indeed carried on upon request and renewal of licenses – but this is something that the vast majority of European Countries already do.
Other issues – as the impact of any restriction on companies such as those that provide prop firearms to movie productions, and the possibility for European Firearms Pass holders to transport Category A firearms EU-wide – are also still a matter of debate.
I 'm opposed to the Commission Directive on Firearms,
because it goes too far, and in the wrong direction
(Jussi Halla Aho - ECR group)
The opinions of MEPs
The voice of those Members of the European Parliament who oppose the EU Gun Ban plans were well represented by Czech ALDE MEP Dita Charanzová.
In her short but nonetheless remarkable speech, Mrs.Charanzová couldn't help but remember how the European Commission is still to submit the mandatory impact assessment for her proposals – which she still refers to as basically useless in improving common safety and detering crime and terrorism, exception made for very marginal improvement on traceability, exchange of information, and the status of deactivated firearms.
Italian EPP MEP Stefano Maullu was likewise laconic in his speech, but possibly even more explicit: the European Commission's proposals are going in the wrong direction, will not help anybody and would actually worsen the common safety and security conditions.
According to Mr. Maullu, no reaction to the EU Gun Ban proposals other than a full rejection would actually make sense at all.
Mr. Maullu also spent a few words to remind the audience that some of the Commission's plans in terms of marking and traceability of firearms would be technically impossible to implement for the industry – or extremely expensive and time-consuming, if possible at all – and would make legitimate gunmakers' business harder and considerably costly and time-consuming. And that would rise the price of finished products...
Terrorist attacks are made with 'illegal' weapons,
not with 'legal' weapons. That’s big difference.
So, why should we punish all legal gun owners?
(Bernd Kölmel- ECR group)
Chairing the event – and nonetheless a staunch supporter of gun rights and an opponent of all unjustified bureaucratic burdens – German MEP Bernd Kölmel pointed out that a firearm is just as dangerous as any other, regardless of its caliber and capacity and technical features, because the "dangerousness" of a firearm is not a matter of working systems or magazine capacity but a matter of will of he or she who handles the tool.
Concerning the planned "exceptions" to the restrictions that would apply to "sport shooters", Mr. Kölmel was also keen to point out that the vast majority of shooters do not take part to official competitions – but even if a shooter just goes to the range from time to time to train and relax, there is no reason why he or she shouldn't be able to do it with the type of firearm and the magazine capacity he or she likes.
And indeed, granting "exceptions" only to those privileged fews who can allow themselves to spend great amounts of money every year to take part in national and international competitions would configure as discrimination...
Doing some Math...
The European Commission has so far failed to support the EU Gun Ban plans with an impact assessment – most likely because carrying on an impact assessment would cripple the gun ban plans, as its outcomes would seriously contradict the anti-gun agenda. Two members of the first panel brought on their own evaluation, with facts and figures, that were the true centerpieces of the event.
Katja Triebel, head of research for the Firearms United network, introduced her own impact assessment – a document drafted closely following the EU impact assessment guidelines, largely based on many of the documents that the European Commission is trying to use to justify its ban plans, and impressive both in terms of detail and sheer workload that was necessary to generate it.
The findings of Triebel's impact assessment are that the approval of the EU Gun Ban would result in a total disaster for the legitimate civilian gun industry and for law abiding gun owners.
With the murder rate in the Member States being steadily falling and with an estimated 70 to 150 murders committed in the entire EU with legally-held firearms yearly – none of which with the modern sporting guns that the Commission is seeking to ban – even just doing nothing and not modifying the European firearms directive at all would yield better results in terms of public safety than enforcing the planned EU Gun Ban.
On the other hand, should the Council and the European Parliament decide to cave in to the Commission's false and misrepresented data, an industry that's worth billions of Euros and supports over half a million of jobs EU-wide would be damaged beyond repair.
Read: Impact Assessment of the Firearms Directive / by Firearms United (Katja Triebel)
Read: Firearms Directive presentation / by Katja Triebel
Swedish scholar and political consultant Erik Lakomaa had its own study to introduce, an in-depth evaluation of the effects of the European firearms directive in its current form – a field where the lack of research is unfortunately noticeable.
Leaving out all political evaluations, Erik Lakomaa's research is based on facts and numbers, and shows that no law passed so far, anywhere in the world, to limit availability of firearms, ammunition and accessories, ever had any impact on crime, because there is no positive correlation between legally-owned firearms and crime.
Read: Firearms Directive Assessment Research / by Erik Lakomaa
Although data is lacking for many European Countries – with Sweden being basically the only exception – Erik Lakomaa found out that, if compared to the overall number of burglaries and to the gun ownership rate, the number of stolen legally-owned firearms is extremely low. Either because law-abiding gun owners adopt safe storage measures or because thieves refrain from stealing guns, the number of legally-owned civilian firearm that wind up on the black market is risible.
That's why crimes committed with stolen guns are almost non-existent; a vast majority of armed street crime is committed with non-guns (e.g. airsoft realistic replicas), and absolutely ZERO crimes have been committed with the military-lookalike modern sporting guns that the European Commission seeks to ban. On the other hand, most firearms used in crime in Europe were illegally smuggled into EU from the former wartorn Countries of the Balkans.
Any ban would thus have zero effect on common safety – even restrictions on realistic replicas, because they would prompt criminals to divert from harmless imitations to blunt instruments, blades, or real firearms.
Swedish EFDD MEP Kristina Winberg later intervened to warmly cheer Lakomaa's research and its findings, and to pledge her opposition to the EU Gun Ban.
Dangers for the collectors and the voice of associations
The European Commission's EU Gun Ban plans also target collectors, and quite heavily so: they would be forced to permanently alter, deactivate, or even turn in for destruction many firearms of great economic, historic and cultural value because the European Commission considers them "too dangerous" to be left in the hands of average citizens.
FESAC chairman Stephen Petroni once again denounced how the European Commission willfully and maliciously compares legitimate gun collectors with illegal hoarders and identifies them as "possible sources of firearms" for the black market in order to justify restrictions against them.
Along with museums, private gun collectors today take it upon themselves to preserve often unique collectable pieces for the futurte generations; the European Commission wants to destroy those pieces of history, just like ISIS did with the monuments of Palmyra and Nimrud, and is willing to trample on subsidiarity principle and overload law-abiding citizens with more legislative and bureaucratic burden rather than letting Member States enforce existing laws – and all because it's hell-bent to disarm individuals.
Read: The Collectors' Perspective on the Firearms Directive / by Stephen Petroni
Swiss Councilmember Pro-Tell vice-president Jean-Luc Addor delivered what was probably one of the shortest and yet most drastic speeches of the day.
Given the liberal local gun laws, the militia-based national defense system and the sheer number of privately-owned firearms in the Country, Switzerland is in a critical position when it comes to the EU Gun Ban plans. The Country is not an EU Member State, but it's a Schengen Area member, and would thus have to forcefully adopt the directive, without submitting it to the vote of its citizens like it's used to do.
Mr. Addor wasted no time in making it clear, out and loud, that Switzerland and the Swiss People will not accept any tightening of gun laws, particularly if it should be imposed from Brussels.
Given how unpopular the European Union is among Swiss citizens – Switzerland recently withdrew its long-standing request for membership – the approval of any restriction, no matter how watered-down it could be from the original EU Gun Ban proposals, could strain the relations between the EU and Switzerland even further. And this is going to be a huge hurdle for the Commission's plans.
Sport shooters also object
Finnish IPSC shooting instructor and Firearms United member Mikko Pesonen wished to point out the issues that the EU Gun Ban would cause to those Countries that have a militia- or reserve-based national defense system, as well as the fact that the European Commission's plans actually target the social category that's statistically the most law-abiding of all – legal, licensed gun owners.
Once again denouncing the incoherence of the Commission's motives, Pesonen also had a point in reminding the MEPs who assisted to the conference that the general public in Europe does not actually distinguish between the European Parliament, Council, and Commission when thinking or talking about the EU, and that thus the adoption of any restriction would estrange the citizens of Member States from the Union even further.
Swedish 2016 IPSC Rifle champion and Nordic 2016 IPSC Shotgun champion Pia Clerté outlined the basic notions of shooting sports, particularly practical shootings, to the benefit of the MEPs who often have to legislate about matters they have no knowledge whatsoever about.
Pia Clerté was very clear in outlining the dangers posed to IPSC and other sport shooting disciplines by the EU Gun Ban as proposed by the European Commission as well as by any other restriction, no matter how watered-down they may be, that the European Parliament may want to adopt instead – and very little or no relief at all would come from the much boasted "exceptions" that would be granted to sport shooters, as critical points would still remain on issues such as international transport of firearms and procurement of spare parts.
Pia Clerté's thus passionately pleaded the MEPs to put an end of what she called out loud "a farce" to focus on real gun-related issues – such as black market sales.
The silence of the industry
Up to now, the silence from the industry and trade associations has been almost absolute.
Although some people from the gun industry were indeed among the public, the only one who dared to intervene was Antonio Bana, President of the Italian gun shop owners' association Assoarmieri, who expressed hopes that the process would end up in a document that would not impose useless restrictions and would finally put an end to legal uncertainty both in Europe and in the Member States.
Unfortunately, Bana's speech was somehow missing the focus, as his intervention has been focused on risks for the muzzleloading historic replicas: a licit worry, considred that the directive would impact also on historic replicas (absurd), but for sure not a priority in respect to the urgency of defending the whole market of modern sporting guns currently included in the B7 Category, becasue it is from these ones that dependes the economic healt of the market itself.
Like itor not, modern sporting rifles are best sellers, and generate economic value for the whole market: manufacturers, distributors, dealers, shooting ranges. By attacking the B7 and reducing the capacity of magazines, the European Commission will immediately reach the intended goal: the market annihilation.
But the fact remains: the European Commission plans will determine the destruction of an entire segment with over one Million jobs all over Europe. The big industry would much probably survive, but the dinamism of the small and medium-sized enterprises would be blown way.
The industry may have the strenght to sustain the confrontation with the destructive plans of the European Commission, but it remains in silnece instead, without even sustaining those who are acting the confrontation. A suicidal strategy.
Fiery final remarks
Firearms United president Tomasz W. Stępień had the honor to deliver the final remarks of the conference, and did so with a vengeance. His remarks were probably the most intense and vibrant speech of the day.
While political correctness allows gun owners to be the only part of society that can legitimately be victimized by deliberate attacks, anti-gun political leaders live in their ivory towers surrounded by armed bodyguards and plot the disarmament of their citizens.
Our Countries are increasingly unsafe, so much that governments must resort to the deployment of the military in our streets, but at the same time those governments listen to the voices of so-called anti-gun "experts" such as Jean-Luc Stassen – the director of the Belgian Proof House, who's recently been arrested for falsifying destruction records for firearms that he subsequently sold on the black market.
As Stępień warned, if any restriction was passed, no matter how watered-down, the only result would be the introduction of new regulations that wouldn't be enforceable without diverting valuable resources from the fight against illegal trafficking. The collective punishment of over two hundred million European citizens would alienate them to the point that they would support political movements that advocate for the break-up of the EU as we know it; and given how the confidence of European citizens towards the EU institutions and their national governments has been steadily falling in the past years, this is a solid probability.
And since the European Commission is treating all those who disagree with them on the EU Gun Ban as "freaks, gun-nuts, racists, stupid, evil, backwards, anti-EU", and what not, Stępień wished to remind the EC that calling the opponents names is exactly what costed Hillary Clinton the U.S. Presidential race; only toning down insults and avoiding any restriction will avoid the "Trump effect" in Europe.
READ: EU Firearms Directive - Firearms United final remarks / by Tomasz Stępień
The opinion of GUNSweek.com
In 1945, at the end of World War II,
the city of Nuremberg hosted a Trial.
The focus was the definitive condemnation,
all over the World and forever,
of any kind of "collective punishments"
This is what was decided during the Nuremberg Trial, to punish the crimes against humanity for which Nazi war criminals were executed.
That was the begin of a new Europe.
The same Europe that now, seems to have forgotten its own historic fundamentals.
Today, in 2016, the European Commission – the main body of the European Union – has 'planned' a collective punishment against law-abiding gun owners of twenty-seven Member States for crimes that have been committed by International terrorists: CRIMINALS, for sure not belonging to the legal gun owners European citizens' community!
What's worse, other bodies of the European Union – the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union – are actually discussing such collective punishment, no matter how much they seem willing to water it down, rather than just thrash it as it should have been right from Day One.
But if the European Commission wished to capitalize on the Paris bloodsheds of 2015 to enact an anti-gun agenda that had been ready for years, now they have to face the truth: all they managed to obtain so far was to unify the European gun owners community for the very first time in a front that is just as resolute as the Commission – if not even more! – to make not one single step back.
A front that is now officially a force to be reckoned with, after it took the fight right at the door of the European élites who'd want their citizens stripped of their guns, and their rights.
It may not still be the much-longed European NRA, but it's definitely the seed of something that will be strategically important for the European gun owners' community, for decades to come.
May anti-gun politicians and bureaucrats like it or not, Firearms United is the union of all European gun owners, and it's here to stay. Like Mr. Stephen Petroni pointed out, this is not a fight over petty technicalities but against a political agenda; and has to be fought tooth and nail, or there will be no tomorrow for us.