European_flagCountryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner writes: You may not know, nor think you care, who Cecilia Malmström is, but I am afraid she is about to become a part of your life if you hold a firearms licence. Ms Malmström is the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs and the issue of firearms licensing is firmly on her agenda for 2014. Last October she launched a commission paper entitled: “Firearms and the internal security of the EU: protecting citizens and disrupting illegal trafficking” (read her statement here). Protecting citizens from the consequences of illegal firearm trafficking into and within the EU is a perfectly laudable aim and one which, depending on your views on the European project, it might seem perfectly sensible to tackle on a Europe wide basis. 

When launching her proposals last October, however, the Commissioner chose to focus on incidents where legally held firearms were used in what we all would agree were horrific acts leading to multiple deaths including those people killed by Derrick Bird in Cumbria in 2010. She then referred to 10,000 people killed by firearms in the EU between 2000 and 2010, but made no attempt to define what proportion of those people were killed with legally held firearms and what proportion with illegal firearms.

If the rest of Europe is anything like the UK you can be certain that the vast majority of gun crime relates to illegally held weapons yet the Commissioner referred only to incidents where legally held guns had been misused and conflated deaths caused by legally and illegally held firearms. She was also keen to state that: “firearms which are legally registered, held and traded get diverted into criminal markets or to unauthorised people”, yet only mentioned the possibility that “many firearms are also illegally imported from third countries” as an afterthought.

The Commissioner almost certainly focussed her comments on legally held firearms not because they are the real problem, but because she cannot do anything about illegally held guns.

Given the overwhelming need of politicians to be seen to be doing ‘something’ it seems legitimate and legal gun owners are the easy target. It is easy to identify us as we have been licensed to hold the guns we do, it is easy to regulate us as we have no choice but to abide by whatever legislation is in place if we want to be licensed and we are overwhelmingly law abiding so will do whatever we are told.

The Commission has now published a list of its Planned Public Consultations for 2014 which includes one on the “Application of the Firearms Directive”. You do not have to be a student of history to be aware that the EU has never knowingly under-regulated on any issue, and that the UK government is peculiarly keen to ‘gold plate’ any regulation that the EU does bring in. That is why, with our colleagues both in the UK and across Europe through our representative body FACE (see below story for news of FACE’s new Secretary General) we will be challenging any attempt to re-open the ‘Firearms Directive’ and impose unnecessary and unjustified restrictions on legitimate firearms owners.