EU agrees new gun rules after militant attacks

Proposed in 2015, the rules restrict access to some high-calibre weapons and make it easier to track guns.

A general view shows firefighters, police officers and forensics gathered in front of the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris on 7 January, 2015. Picture: AFP.

BRUSSELS – The European Union agreed stricter gun rules on Tuesday but baulked at a proposal for a complete ban on the most lethal semi-automatic weapons such as the Kalashnikov.

The measure is part of an overall tightening of EU rules that govern the purchase and sale of such weapons since two Islamist gunmen shot dead 12 people in the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. Militants killed 130 people in attacks in Paris in November last year.

Proposed in 2015 but disputed by the bloc’s 28 nations, the rules restrict access to some high-calibre weapons and make it easier to track guns to avoid them being sold on the black market.

But amid opposition from Europe’s gun lobby, the European Commission’s plan to prohibit private citizens from owning weapons like the Russian-made AK-47 failed to obtain enough support from member states.

“We have fought hard for an ambitious deal that reduces the risk of shootings in schools, summer camps or terrorist attacks with legally held firearms,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in statement.
“Of course we would have liked to go further.”

Gun-control legislation differs widely across the EU. Some countries sought exemptions on buying and selling semi-automatic firearms for groups ranging from shooting clubs to collectors.

Finland, which shares a 1,340 km border with Russia and runs a mandatory military service for all men, had opposed the Commission’s initial proposal, saying it would have harmed the training of its voluntary reservist clubs.

But the Nordic country welcomed Tuesday’s political agreement: “I am very pleased with the outcome,” Interior Minister Paula Risikko said.