13 June 2016 – Last week the EU Council adopted the most draconian parts of the EU gun ban as its official policy. What does that mean – and is it likely to pass?
As reported on UK Shooting News last Friday, the EU council’s adopted measures will impose:
- A ban on all those semi-automatic handguns capable of accepting detachable or fixed magazines holding more than 21 rounds, as well as said detachable or fixed magazines.
- Abolition of EU firearm category D, meaning that firearms such as break-barrel single-shot shotguns and muzzle-loading replicas of antique firearms would be heavily regulated.
- Mandatory registration of alarm guns and deactivated firearms.
- Mandatory three year or five year expiry of all gun licenses and “constant medical supervision” of gun owners.
- Mandatory “safe storage” of firearms along the UK model, which would have severe consequences in Eastern Europe where firearms may be lawfully owned for self-defence.
- While an exemption from the above-mentioned bans would be granted to “sport shooters”, they would have to become members of an authorized shooting federation.
- Sporting firearms may only be possessed if the owner demonstrates a “need” to have them for competitions organised either by an internationally recognised shooting sport federation or an “official national shooting sport federation” – which could end the UK’s Section 2 shotgun licensing regime.
- Mandatory mental health tests to determine your “reliability”
But who are the EU Council? Why are they adopting these measures when the EU Parliament, under Vicky Ford MEP, rejected them? How is all this legally foisted on us? What will happen next?
To answer those questions you need to understand how the EU makes laws. It’s a lot more complicated than our own Parliament.
The EU’s main legislative players and who they are
There are three main houses in the EU’s legislative process. These are: the EU Parliament, made up of elected MEPs; the EU Commission, made up of unelected bureaucrats, some of whom are appointed by EU subject states’ governments; and the EU Council (formally known as the “Council of the European Union”), which is made up of people from EU subject states’ governments. These are usually politicians, in which case they’re normally senior ministers, but can also be bureaucrats, civil servants or diplomats. It varies depending on what areas (e.g. home affairs, foreign policy, defence, etc) the council wants to interfere with.
The EU Council has a rotating presidency; it changes hands every six months. At the moment we are almost at the end of the Dutch presidency. Slovakia is due to take over from next month. Each country thus has a turn at the wheel, dictating the EU Council’s priorities. The ‘European Council’ is the name given to the EU Council when heads of state from EU subject states meet under its authority, which happens once every 3 months. These meetings are what the papers call “EU summits”.
The EU Commission is the only one of the three with the power to write laws. Although the EU Council and the EU Parliament can propose amendments to EU diktats drawn up by the EU Commission, only the commission has the final say over the wording of EU laws.
How does the EU create and impose its diktats on us?
The EU Commission announces a new diktat. It must then wait for the EU Parliament and the EU Council to decide whether they agree or disagree with it. If the parliament agrees with the diktat, the EU Council rubber-stamps it and it becomes law. If the parliament disagrees, things become more complex.
A round of ‘tennis’ follows, with the three houses sending drafts of the diktat back and forth, trying to come to a common position. If, after a set number of rounds, they don’t – as is now happening with the EU gun ban – then the EU Council calls for the ‘conciliation committee’ to form. This is made up of an equal number of MEPs and council representatives, with the EU Commission supposedly involved as mediators between the two.
This means the elected representatives are outnumbered by bureaucrats and other countries’ ministers.
If the conciliation committee approves the diktat’s wording, the council and commission rubber-stamp it and it becomes EU law. If they don’t approve it, the diktat fails.
UK Shooting News’ author is not an expert on EU law and this is mostly cribbed from the EU’s website and Wikipedia, which is far clearer than the EU itself. Corrections are gratefully welcomed if this is substantially wrong.
So what happened last week with the gun ban?
Reuters reported that interior ministers from across the EU adopted the draconian version of the gun ban plan. This – aside from implicating Home Secretary Theresa May – indicates that the EU Council has now fixed its position in favour of the full-fat ban.
The EU Parliament, back in March, set out its stance against the EU gun ban, removing most of the drastic measures which were originally proposed by the EU Commission and which have now been re-adopted by the council. Numerous exemptions have been introduced into the EU Council’s version to neutralise opposition from Eastern Europe and Scandinavian countries. The original EU gun ban plan would have made it illegal for their military reservists to store their issued weapons at home, amongst other things. Only Poland and the Czech Republic’s governments still oppose the EU gun ban, and while MEPs from across the bloc opposed the gun ban back in winter, UKSN is not aware how many of them have since changed their voting plans.
This means the final stage of the EU gun ban fight will be in the ‘conciliation committee’. UKSN’s author is no expert but understands, from talking to Eurosceptic EU-watchers, that the bureaucrats almost always win these final stages.