14 Dec 2016 – The EU is on the brink of agreeing a gun ban deal which would force a whole raft of formerly legal items into Section 5 – including ordinary STANAG 5.56mm magazines.
The gun ban has been stalled for several weeks at the so-called trialogue stage, which is where the EU Parliament, the EU Commission and the EU Council (made up of heads of EU countries’ governments) thrash out the final wording of new diktats that are imposed on EU subject states.
As predicted by UKSN ages ago, following months of negotiations before the trialogue stage the EU Commission tried to throw all the progress made out of the window, insisting that its original proposal for a ban on all semi-automatic firearms and modern magazines be rubber-stamped into EU law with no changes.
The EU Parliament negotiators, led by British MEP Vicky Ford, have managed to turn a complete disaster into a partial disaster, going by the text of a letter from her to other EU MEPs that was leaked to campaign website Firearms United.
Informed sources across the Channel believe that the Ford Letter is the strongest indication yet that a deal has been reached behind closed doors and that the EU Commission’s has secured its key ban demands.
The key points of the letter, in the order presented, are:
- Blank firers converted from live firearms must always be treated as live firearms regardless of how much conversion work is done.
- Newly deactivated firearms will be put into EU Category C. This is the same level of restriction as shotguns, meaning when the UK is forced to adopt this, we will see mandatory licensing for deactivated firearms.
- The idiotic deactivation regulation introduced in April this year might be revised in 2017. This seems to be as a result of pressure from British authorities annoyed that the EU ignored their knowledge of deactivation standards the first time round.
- Full auto firearms converted to semi-autos will be banned. This includes the vast majority of guns used for International Practical Shooting Confederation sporting disciplines on the Continent.
- In a mirror of the bodged British system for pistol shooters, target shooters (and military reservists) will have to apply for a special exemption to continue enjoying their sport.
- Standard STANAG-compatible magazines will be banned. This ban is very poorly worded and will see innocent people dragged into courts for decades to come, as the precise wording from the Ford Letter is: “The categorisation applies when the firearm and magazine is in combination together, and does not depend merely on whether the firearms is capable of having a higher capacity magazine inserted. This has been made explicit in the text for adoption.”
- Rifle magazines with a capacity of greater than 10 rounds will be banned.
- Pistol magazines that can hold 20 rounds or more will be banned.
- Legitimate users will be forced to apply for special exemptions from the ban in order to keep shooting.
- Magazines will be authorised for possession in the same way as expanding ammunition currently is in the UK. You will have to show your FAC to buy magazines.
- People without this special authorisation who are in possession of standard capacity magazines once the ban comes into force will have their FACs and SGCs revoked, by order of the European Union.
- None of the above applies to rimfire magazines.
- The EU Firearms Pass will be updated to allow possession of banned firearms by target shooters and historical re-enactors.
- Handloading and modifications to private firearms will be permitted by the EU.
- Medical and psychological monitoring (but not testing) will become mandatory. A form of wording will be created allowing EU subject states to use the new EU diktat as an excuse to impose psychological and medical testing.
- The “essential components” of a firearm will need to be marked and registered in the same way as receivers currently are. “Firearms of historical importance may not need markings depending on national law”. These requirements will not apply to existing firearms.
- An EU-wide database of firearms owners will be created. All states within the EU will have access to your sensitive personal information.
The practical effect is that Ford has imposed the worst parts of the British firearms licensing system onto free countries within the EU. While she deserves credit for completely stopping the EU Commission’s semi-auto ban, the magazine ban will have a severe effect on all shooting disciplines – not just IPSC. She appears to have been hoodwinked into believing that current firearms laws restrict firearms according to their “loading devices”, agreeing to the bans on the basis that they are just an extension of existing restrictions, which is demonstrably untrue. Ford deserves severe condemnation for not fighting harder on this point.
Dita Charanzova, a Czech MEP, tried to oppose these measures but appears to have been overruled by her British colleague Ford.
When will this stupidity come into force?
The EU wants to agree the final wording of the ban by January 2017 and have it approved ASAP by a rubber-stamp vote of MEPs in a plenary session of the EU parliament. These sessions happen in the middle of every month so the rubber-stamping could be complete by as early as February 2017.
If the EU’s desired 15 month implementation time limit is imposed, the EU gun ban will become binding law in all EU subject states by May 2018.
What will happen in Britain?
Most of the EU’s madder proposals were encouraged behind the scenes by British bureaucrats, keen to see fresh bans and restrictions but unable to raise them in the UK.
We will undoubtedly see the police start a fresh PR campaign against the shooting community, in the same way that Police Scotland is about to criminalise hundreds of thousands of law-abiding airgun owners for the ‘crime’ of owning a plinking gun. It’s far easier to target the law-abiding shooter by spinning the press than it is to catch murderers and rapists.
After the Home Office deliberately rewrote the Home Office Guidance on Firearms Law to allow police employees to carry out fishing expeditions in shooters’ homes without a court warrant, we may expect to see owners of AR-15s and other modern magazine-fed rifles deliberately targeted for searches by police. Owners of UK-compliant pistols can also expect to see themselves on the warrantless search list.
The ban only applies to semi-auto rifles fitted with magazines. It is unclear how lever-release and MARS action firearms will be captured by the ban, or whether the police will seize the moment to demand these firearms are outlawed – something police have longed for ever since their introduction to the market. We might get lucky and have the magazine part of the ban ignored, as semi-auto rifles are all but illegal in the UK, but that is extremely unlikely.
There is no doubt that the Home Office will eagerly rush to implement the EU gun ban into British law, gold-plating it along the way. The UK’s likely date of exit from the EU’s clutches is March 2019. This means we will be subject to the ban for about a year – and, as we all know, once something is banned in Britain the ban is never, ever repealed.