26 July 2016 – Vicky Ford MEP, the EU gun ban rapporteur in the EU Parliament, has written an open letter to the licensed firearms community setting out exactly what happened in the vote a fortnight ago.
Published on the shootinguk.co.uk website, Ford’s letter addresses the EU Parliament’s IMCO committee vote two weeks ago. IMCO is the key EU Parliament committee which will take elected MEPs’ draft ban text to the EU Commission and EU Council, who have the final say on the diktat’s wording.
Thus the danger is very much still present, with the added concern that neither the EU Commission nor EU Council are accountable to voters in the same way as democratically elected politicians.
The IMCO committee’s vote last week finalised these points in the draft gun ban plan, according to Ford:
- Although semi-autos will be ‘banned’, IMCO MEPs want there to be an exemption for competitive and recreational rifle club shooters who have already been shooting for 12 months
- There should be no blanket ban on the ownership of standard capacity magazines – but you will need to show your FAC/SGC to buy new ones, if the MEPs’ plan is not rejected
- The EU Parliament voted to reject the idea of dismissing the entire EU gun ban out of hand
- The ‘ban’ will only apply to centrefire rifles, and Ford claims this was at the urging of the Home Office – which, if true, would have had to have taken place under the nose of then-Home Secretary Theresa May, who at the time was making speeches praising the ban
- Full autos converted into semi-autos should not be banned, as the EU Commission proposed, according to the MEPs. Instead “technical specifications” should be drawn up at EU level to regulate such conversions
Ford herself said: “The intention is to restrict the free sale of loading devices (especially those of a capacity above 20 rounds), while at the same time allow the legitimate use of both the firearms and loading devices in sport. Albeit with some additional administrative paperwork in regards to the application for an exemption.”
Comment: A dog’s dinner that makes EU subject states poorer and less free
The EU gun ban plan can be seen to have been watered down to a UK-style “all is banned unless explicitly permitted by an exemption” system. I say watered down – of course, with the EU Council and EU Commission outnumbering MEPs 2 to 1 in the upcoming ‘trialogue’ negotiations which will finalise the gun ban’s text, nothing is yet off the table.
If the complicated system of exemptions goes ahead, we in Great Britain may well see extra regulation on semi-autos (yes, potentially including your self-unloading rifle; see below), with FAC holders having to have held their certificates for at least 12 months before being able to apply for a semi-auto variation. If the ban will not cover .22s, as seems to be the case at present, at least BASC can issue lots of inappropriate press releases slapping themselves on the back for merely encouraging the EU to gold-plate our current bans, rather than letting the original proposal through.
We do not yet know whether self-unloading rifles, in the UK sense, will be caught in the EU definition. UK Shooting News’ author believes that if the EU’s wording is “semi-automatic,” instead of the precise UK wording of “self loading”, lever-release and MARS actions may still be at risk. Again, until this ‘trialogue’ negotiation begins this autumn, we won’t know for sure.
It is looking likely, however, that the UK will try and adopt a ‘no changes here’ attitude to the ban, having imposed UK-style controls on the free countries of the EU before Brexit. If the EU settles on ‘semi automatic’ as its final ban wording, we may be able to persuade the Home Office that no change to UK law is needed because we banned self-loaders 30 years ago. We will, however, be fighting the police on that one – and the police almost always win, if only because in the recent past, BASC tended to fold first and side with new restrictions. We don’t yet know how the ‘new BASC’ under Peter Glenser will react in this sort of situation.
Normal magazines will almost certainly be subject to the same controls as primers, in that you’ll have to show your FAC before buying them at a shop. With so many hundreds of thousands of them out there already, this won’t affect the UK in any meaningful way; the private sales market will prosper considerably. However, the EU Parliament plan will ban hunters from being able to use standard capacity magazines in non-22 firearms – including shotguns (and yes, given that the EU doesn’t distinguish between firearms and shotguns, what do you think a centrefire percussion non-22 barrelled weapon counts as, for EU purposes?)
The wild card in our hand is Brexit. Although the odds of this are very remote, the UK may yet escape the EU before the 2 year maximum timescale is up. The EU gun ban will come into force by mid-2017 at the earliest, and probably late 2017 in the UK by the time Parliament has had its go at gold-plating it.
Postscript: Some people out there are blaming me – shooting the messenger – for highlighting that the EU is trying to ban semi-autos and that we don’t yet know whether self-unloading rifles will get a free pass. I’m not to blame if you can’t sell your SGC, son, and I’m not going to stop writing about this purely so you can offload your about-to-be-banned gun onto some poor sap who doesn’t know what’s about to happen.