As the first round of trialogue is over, the final form of new Firearms Directive is becoming more clear. Much of its nonsense, such as registration of harmless replicas or destruction of valuable and historically significant firearms in collections, was removed. This is especially thanks to the diligent work of many MEPs in the IMCO committee, and also to many experts in the field in addition to many countless individuals petitioning their representatives.
Recent tragedies highlighted the real problems, like insufficient rules for alarm weapons or security of distance trade with firearms, and these same people reworked knee-jerk bans proposed by the European Commission into reasonable and workable rules.
However, there’s still certain major infringement on rights of law-abiding firearms owners. Even when legal owners of semi-automatic firearms followed all laws and are at no fault in regard to causes of terrorism and crime, anti-rights powers-that-be within the EU still demand their demonstrative punishment for crimes caused by terrorists and criminals.
The slice of salami
Of course, all semi-automatic weapons are a chunk too big even for Commission to swallow. That’s why they only proposed ban on firearms which they declared (note: not proved, just declared) “too dangerous” for mere citizen to have, while simultaneously assuring the rest of citizens that they still shall be allowed to possess and use any firearm that Commission benevolently finds appropriate.
The first proposal – to ban anything that looks like automatic – didn’t fly too far; the idea that lethality of firearm depends on its look is simply too stupid to get support of anyone except fanatical gun haters. Then it was revised and narrowed, using classic “divide and conquer” tactics; now the ban targets certain semiautomatic centre-fire firearms equipped with folding stocks, and magazines with capacities greater than 20 rounds (and, if the Dutch presidency shall have its way, 10 rounds for rifles), with exemptions for reservists and sport shooters who are members of shooting club in a government-approved organization.
The Commission and other gun-banners hope that this group shall be too small to put up any effective political opposition, so they can crush it, declare it “a victory over evil” and posing as our protectors. They still failed to present any proof about why these firearms are “especially dangerous”, it seems such evidence is in their own minds and nowhere else. When confronted with proof to counter such ridiculous claims1, their only answer is “what do you need it for?” Which is quite consistent for them; in their world, they don’t need to justify their bans – it is the citizen who has duty to justify his rights to them.
Divide and conquer
This situation can move in either one of two directions.
First is a direction where everybody whose firearms are outside the ban, or were granted an exemption, shall turn blind eye on injustices against someone else. That shall mean that aforementioned ban shall most likely be approved, gun banners shall rake cheap political points… and in the next proposal, which is bound to come in two years2, they shall repeat it. Why shouldn’t they? Not only the opposition shall already be weakened, it shall be also clear that if the Commission picks targets small enough, others shall again throw their fellows to the wolves to save themselves. There shall always be some excuse. Maybe some terrorist shall join a shooting club to get access to a firearm, as already happened3; the very next day after his crime, the “exemption to protect legitimate interest of sport shooters” shall become “dangerous loophole that must be closed for safety of the public”. Or someone shall use sporting .22 with 10-round magazine for a school shooting, as it already happened twice5; isn’t that proof that “ban on high-capacity centre-fire semiautomatics was a step in the right direction, but this tragedy shows that more must be done”? There shall always be criminals misusing firearms, thereby providing endless excuses for taking them from honest folks. No one is safe from this. Remember, Cumbria shooter murdered 12 and injured 11 people with break-action shotgun with external hammers – that is a firearm which was obsolete even before WW I.
The other possibility – the ONLY other possibility – is that legal firearms community shall stay united and openly make a stand together. No sacrifice of others’ rights to appease the enemy, no feeding someone to the wolves in hope that they shall devour someone else this time.
Even if gun-haters are strong in Brussels, they are not omnipotent. If you followed the course of the Directive negotiations, you know that many MEPs do fight for honest citizens’ rights with tooth and nail. However, as those negotiations approach conclusion, and this politically motivated ban is still there, everyone needs to make a decision and show his true colours, be it through speaking or silence. As we recently discussed this matter with friendly MEP’s, they told us that their opponents claim that almost nobody objects to these bans, not even most firearms owners. We were happy to assure our allies that it is a lie. For example, the European Federation of Associations for Hunting & Conservation (FACE) explicitly mentioned those bans as “the only real negative point” in the current version of the Directive5. If “almost nobody” is supposed to object the bans, seven million members of FACE is a rather large “almost”. However, weight of this decision doesn’t lie just in numbers.
One for All, All for One
You know that firearms with folding stocks, or magazines with capacity over 20 rounds, are almost never used for hunting. Therefore, FACE could easily see a ban on these firearms as “someone else’s problem” and be happy with current version. Instead of doing that, they decided to stand with fellow shooters. In an excellent display of principle and honour, European hunters showed the Commission that their friends aren’t for sale.
No matter what may happen in the future, this won’t be ever forgotten in shooting community. But to actually prevail, we need others to take this principled stand too. European Shooting Confederation, International Practical Shooting Confederation, and all national shooting organisations – especially those whose firearms fall outside the ban, or are given an exemption – they all have to make choice: speak openly for their friends, or turn their backs to them by staying silent. We can stand together or almost certainly fall divided.
1 Many massacres were committed with supposedly much less dangerous firearms – for example school massacres in Finland in 2007 and 2008 (.22 rimfire pistol with 10-rounds magazine) and Cumbria shootings in Wales 2010 (break-action double-barrel shotgun with external hammers, bolt-action .22 rimfire rifle). Also remember that terrorists have alternate means of killing like cars and homemade explosives which, unfortunately, were already proved as efficient as any firearm.
2 Proposal contains the clause that says that the Commission shall evaluate the Directive every five years, with first evaluation coming two years after entry of the Directive into force.
3 Anders Breivik, perpetrator of the Utøya massacre, obtained hunting license to get permission for rifle and he joined sport shooting club to get permission for pistol. Also Van der Vlis, perpetrator of shooting in Alphen aan den Rijn in Netherlands 2011, was member of shooting club.
4 see point 1.