15 July 2016 – Following the EU Parliament’s vote to endorse a ban on all centrefire semi-auto firearms and their magazines on Wednesday, what does it mean for British shooting?
Myth: Brexit will protect us from this insanity
Brexit may not help us. Although we voted to leave the EU on 23rd June, the UK has yet to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Article 50 is the legal instrument which says “so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye!” to the EU. Until it is triggered and all parties agree the subsequent negotiations have finished, we remain an EU subject state.
The Countryside Alliance has already warned that changes to the EU Firearms Directive will probably affect us because of the time the government is taking over invoking Article 50. Despite yesterday’s appointment of David Davis MP as the new Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, even he has conceded that Article 50 will probably not be invoked until early 2017.
With Article 50 negotiations taking a legal maximum of 2 years to complete, we will not get out of the EU until 2019 at the latest. It is possible that we could finish the negotiations earlier than the 2 year maximum period and that’s probably our last hope now. If, however, it’s dragged out to the last day, and even if we allow for the EU gun ban negotiations to drag on into the middle of next year and add on a 6 month implementation period, we still face being hit by it in early 2018 at the very latest.
Fact: Your .22 semi-auto will not be affected
Although concrete information on the EU gun ban’s precise wording is very hard to find at the moment, many EU documents refer explicitly to “centrefire” firearms as being subject to the ban. You can view this as UK MEPs standing up for British interests, or you can view this as “I’m alright Jack, sod the rest of you!”
We should not celebrate something that makes our cousins on the Continent less free, or subject to idiotic kneejerk British laws. The responses of BASC and the CA to Wednesday’s vote, by crowing that British .22 semi-autos won’t be affected, are utterly shameful. Mind you, at least they bothered to take an interest in the whole proceedings, unlike the NRA, which – except for a “please write to your MEP” note back in November – has since said nothing publicly, other than sitting on its arse thinking up new ways of screwing target shooters for more money.
I suppose you can view the BASC and CA responses as trying to keep uninterested politicians at least vaguely on side by patting them on the head, but this sort of appeasement is what has kept the noose slowly tightening around our collective necks.
If you own a lever-release or MARS action, be worried
We do not yet know what the precise wording of the EU gun ban will be. If it becomes EU law next autumn, we should have a better idea nearer the time. We then have another 3 months or so for updates to the Firearms Act to be tabled, implementing the EU gun ban and outlawing your firearms.
The reason lever-release actions and MARS actions are legal (which, technically speaking, are self unloading firearms) is because British law only bans “self loading” firearms, covering anything greater – or smaller – than .22″. If the EU gun ban wording is different from that, you can bet your bottom dollar that our police will be whispering in the Home Office’s ear, demanding a ban on our innovative and useful rifles.
We may be lucky, and we may be able to persuade our MPs that current laws already cover the EU semi-auto ban. Equally, we may be unlucky. It all depends on whether the EU diktat’s current wording, about banning firearms “capable of firing more than 21 rounds without reloading” is adopted directly or made conditional on the insertion of a standard capacity magazine.
I own standard capacity magazines. Will they be banned?
Probably, yes. If your non-22 mags are capable of accepting more than 21 rounds, the EU is explicitly coming for them. We don’t yet know whether it will be a crime to possess such magazines or if the criminal offence will only be committed if such a mag is inserted into a rifle.
Thinking about how the UK has approached magazine capacity bans in the past, we will probably end up having to submit pinned and welded magazines to the Proof Houses for certification. No doubt London and Birmingham are jumping for joy at having their revenue streams boosted and guaranteed for decades to come.
What about section 1 shotguns?
Bad news, fellas. See the part above about MARS and lever release actions. EU law does not distinguish between shotguns and firearms like British law does, so as far as the Brussels bureaucrats are concerned, you’re in possession of a semi-auto centrefire firearm. Tube magazine-fed shotguns that can accept fewer than 21 cartridges will be OK, though.
UKSN’s author knows little about practical shotguns in general and so can’t really say more than that. Internal magazines of less than 21 rounds should be alright. I don’t think there’s any S1 shotties out there fed by detachable magazines a la AR-15s, but if there are, owners may be at risk in the future.
And UK legal pistols?
Again, it depends how the unelected bureaucrats implement this “firearm capable of firing more than 21 rounds without reloading” part. Section 7 pistols, automatic pistols kept as slaughtering instruments, and any other magazine-fed self-loading pistol capable of accepting a mag holding more than 21 rounds are likely to be caught by the EU gun ban.
Hopefully we can negotiate an exemption from our own MPs when they are ordered to rubber-stamp the ban into UK law. Living life through exemptions is a dangerous and expensive business, though.
.22″ pistols should not be caught by the ban. Good news if you’ve got a GSG 1911 clone.
Do I need to do anything right now? Get rid of any of my kit?
For the moment we are OK. This will come into EU law by late 2017 or early 2018 and we may be able to have it neutered in Parliament over here. It will need amendments to primary legislation, meaning a full Parliamentary debate.
What’s this exemption thing for target shooters that I’ve just read about?
Vicky Ford MEP has proposed that subject states can exempt owners of semi-autos from the ban if they are a member of a recognised club and are involved in shooting competitions with that club. We don’t know much more about this at the moment – its first mention was in a press conference held yesterday – and it will be a point of great interest.
From a legal point of view, we might expect to see all non-22 semi autos moved to section 5 and then dispensations granted, in the same way as hunters are authorised to use expanding bullets. This method would create an increase in workload for the police, meaning FAC fees could be expected to increase as a result.
The sensible way of implementing it would be to say “all section 1 target shooters here already have to have club membership and approved clubs can already get on with their business with little or no embuggerance factor, so the EU exemption is designed into our system already and thus there is no need for change.”
This is not how the rest of the EU is set up, and it is a source of national embarrassment that our own restrictive laws will be foisted on free countries that don’t want them.