Translation of the article “El lobby de las armas renace en Europa– published on Playground Magazine, a leading online cutting edge music publication in Spain, with an audience of 100% festivalgoers and almost 6 million followers on Facebook.
They are not asking for a permit to carry guns in the street, instead they are accusing politicians of making them scapegoats to cover their maladministration.
Author: Rafa Martí, Thursday 14 April 2016
Europe has never been the land of guns, there has never been an issue with easy access to firearms. A status quo was respected with restriction to access being much higher than in the USA. The firearms lobby consisting of the industry as well as the enthusiasts who use them has remained a sleeping lion that was mainly ignored. Its traditional role within Europe has been to defend the interests of hunters, collectors and shooting enthusiasts. It bears no comparison with the belligerent action of the US National Rifle Association (NRA).
Until now that it has been awoken.
The European Commission is alarmed by terrorist attacks, starting with the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It now wants to amend the EU Firearms Directive.
The Commission has alleged that there is a link between legal firearm ownership and the supply of weapons to terrorists. This is an idea that is rejected for several reasons by firearm enthusiasts.
At present time there exists campaign on Change.org with more than 315,000 signatures lobbying for the Directive to be retained as is, without changes. And the lobby has launched a strong offensive in through correspondence and meeting with politicians to halt what they consider a « botched job ».
The lobby maintains that the Commission wants those who own firearms legally to pay the price for its mismanagement in the war against terrorism.
Chronology of Europe’s relationship with firearms
The issue with firearms in Europe surfaced in 2008. Then the European Parliament sent a proposal to the Commission asking for common guidelines for the deactivation of firearms. While in Spain prohibited firearms are almost inevitably destroyed, in other countries – particularly in Eastern Europe – they are often poorly converted to blank-firing guns and sold licence-free. Such firearms end up in the hands of companies that resell them, following which they are reactivated into fully-functional firearms through simple procedures.
According to the lobby, the EU wants those who possess firearms legally to pay the price for its mismanagement in the war against terrorism.
A third of the firearms used in the Charlie Hebdo attacks, in the assault on the kosher supermarket, in the Bataclan massacre and in the rest of attacks in the Paris last November, as well as in the Brussels attacks were such guns from Slovakia. As confirmed by the French Police, the conversion of these firearms was not carried out according to deactivation standards. And they had been resold to terrorists after having been reactivated them to live firearms. These firearms were surplus assault rifles from the Balkan wars.
It was not until 18 November last year (6 days after the attacks in Paris) that the Commission issued its Regulation on common rules for the deactivation of firearms. In the view of many experts in the field, this measure had been introduced too late.
According to Daniel Alvarez, spokesman for the National Firearms Association (ANARMA) and member of FIREARMS UNITED (prime representative of the lobby in Europe), the introduction of common standards should have happened in 2008. For Alvarez, the EU’s failure to prevent terrorists’ access to firearms is now being used as an excuse to launch a very badly-conceived plan against firearm ownership.
Let us restrict firearms
Such a plan dates back to 2013 when some members of the Commission wanted to further limit the availability of firearms within the EU. However, terrorism was not an issue back then in 2013. Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Firearms Task Force head Fabio Marini were at the forefront of this drive to amend the European Firearms Directive of 1991.
Their objective was to completely prohibit automatic and semi-automatic firearms and also ban sales through the internet.
But Alvarez says: « In Europe automatic firearms may only be acquired by a few collectors in some countries and who in addition to the collector license are granted special permission. The possession of an automatic firearm is impossible In Spain. None of the firearms used by terrorists come from collectors. Moreover, collectors often assist the police in their investigations.
According to the lobby, restrictions on firearms will not impact on the firearms industry, but on individual users *
Alvarez further complains that semi-automatic firearms form the widest range of hunting and sporting rifles. On the other hand, a restriction on internet sales would reduce dealers’ business activity. « A total of 580,000 jobs are endangered » says Alvarez, pointing out that the amendment of the Directive will not affect the arms industry that is granted state contracts.
The amendment of the Directive would also prevent access to replicas of real firearms such as airsoft guns. In total, FIREARMS UNITED now covers the interests of 12.5 million legal owners and users of firearms within the EU, and a further 3 million airsoft enthusiasts who are now in conflict with the Commission.
The perfect moment
The attempt to justify the amendment of the Directive failed in 2013. The Commission carried out an extensive survey with 85,000 participants who responded massively in favour of leaving the regulation of firearms as it is.
Extension of the list of prohibited firearms. 75% opposed restricting online sales. 85% opposed further restrictions on the access to firearms in general.
That same year, the Commission launched a Eurobarometer survey with questions aimed as providing data that was more favourable to the modification of the Directive. However, the organizations labelled this poll biased. Therefore, the lobby links the EU’s mess in dealing with terrorism with its intent to relaunch its attempt. The proposal to amend the Directive was published without an impact assessment just few days after the Bataclan attacks.
Alvarez, who has participated in numerous meetings in Brussels, claims that an adviser of Jean Claude Juncker acknowledged that this is the only way in which they can achieve « a dramatic effect in public opinion » against terrorism. No one has been able to confirm this statement.
Within the EU, 6,500 deaths occur annually with firearms. 5,000 are suicides **
The Commission’s bungling and the organisations’ lobbying has had an effect since, for now, things remain as they are. As a Commission source told Politico, the proposal to amend the Directive has been modified by MEPs to whom the lobby has spoken. The Commission has had to back down due to the recognition of numerous errors.
However, the Commission maintains that the amendment of the Directive is not only intended to prevent terrorism, but also common crime with firearms. According to data from 2015, in the EU 6,500 annual deaths were made with firearms, 75% of which are suicides and 15% homicides. The trend since 2000 has been a reduction of 20%.
What is not in doubt is that the action by the Commission has awoken a community that was mainly unheard of in Europe.
Real or invented Problem?
Notes from FIREARMS UNITED:
* According to the lobby, restrictions on firearms will not impact on the firearms industry, but on individual users. FIREARMS UNITED disagrees that the industry will be unaffected. Military and Police contracts come and go and any big company requires a stable civilian sales market.
** Within the EU, 6,500 deaths occur annually with firearms. 5,000 are suicides. FIREARMS UNITED researched the 6500 deaths by the Flemish Peace Institut. During the last 10 years suicide and homicide rates decreased by 30%. In 2012 less than 800 homicides have been committed with firearms.
FIREARMS UNITED listed the highlights of a recent study of the EU : Most, if not all, homicides with firearms are connected with illicit possession.