International Legal Affairs: V8N4
Europe Discovers the Virtues of Personal Self-Defense While European Politicians Seek to Disarm the Continent.
Gun control pundits have long extolled the virtues of an Australian or European gun control scheme, pointing to the low incidences of gun violence in Australia and Europe. Listening to politicians and media worldwide, the high rates of firearm ownership were apparently the root cause of mass shootings throughout the United States, to include recent events in Aurora, Colorado and San Bernardino, Colorado. With recent mass shootings in Paris and Brussels, a series of high profile attacks against women, Europeans are re-evaluating their positions on gun control. As usual, the politicians seem disconnected from reality and the will of the populace.
Austria, one of the most heavily armed countries within the European Union, reports an estimated 900,000 firearms held by a population of 8.5 million. Despite already being one of the most heavily armed countries within Europe, sales of firearms in Austria have exceeded prior year to date sales. “Nearly all shotguns are sold out because you don’t need to have a firearms permit to buy them,” Thomas Ortner, spokesman for gun retailers in the state of Upper Austria. “Registration courses for pistols are usually held only every five weeks but are now held weekly.” According to Austrian law, anyone 18 and over can buy and own a shotgun or certain types of rifles, but they must be registered at a licensed dealer on gunsmith within six weeks of purchase. The report also noted that many of the new gun buyers are women. The report stated that the most common reasons given for buying a gun were fear of refugees and fear of burglars.
A January 2016 article from Reuters pointed out that the best-selling products on the “Sport & Leisure” section of Amazon.de (the German Amazon.com) revealed brisk sales of defensive sprays. The Reuters article also noted that the president of German defensive spray manufacturer DEF-TEC indicated that sales of the products “rose seven-fold in the final three months of .”
Following a well-publicized scene of violence in Cologne on December 31, 2015, reportedly more than 300 people have applied to Cologne police for licenses to carry gas pistols and imitation firearms; only 408 such licenses were granted in all of 2015. Actual firearms are also in great demand – German state news agency Deutsche Welle noted a similar trend. According to Deutsche Welle, “most customers want a pistol that can fit easily into a handbag or a small drawer in the night table.” Moreover, the news outlet reported that “there has been an increase of at least 1,000 percent or more in Google search queries for gun permits since January.”
Faced with increased threats of random violence, European citizens are seeking to arm and protect themselves by whatever means necessary. As Europeans are learning, a gas pistol may not be ideal when confronted by an unruly mob or an armed gunman, but it’s better than nothing. Sadly, Europe’s politicians are seeking to disarm the continent’s citizens, rather than allow for increased self-reliance and personal protection.
As gun sales increase throughout Europe, the European Union Parliament is seeking to impose additional restrictions on the purchase and possession of firearms. A proposed directive jointly issued in December 2015 by Internal Market and Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska (Poland) and Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos (Greece) that would restrict all “Semi-automatic firearms for civilian use which resemble weapons with automatic mechanisms.” This restriction is an attempt to ban firearms based upon form, rather than function. In addition, the restriction would apply to all firearms, including pistols, blank guns, and flare guns. This proposed restriction would be a constructive ban on nearly all semiautomatic rifles within the continent, regardless of caliber, model, historical significance, or value. Most importantly, the proposed regulation would seek “…to ban certain semi-automatic firearms, which will not, under any circumstance, be allowed to be held by private persons, even if they have been permanently deactivated.”
In addition to restricting “military-type” firearms, the European Parliament proposes that all firearm owners be subject to mandatory medical testing in order to own and possess firearms. The regulation reads: “Member States shall provide for standard medical tests for issuing or renewing authorizations as referred to in paragraph 1 and shall withdraw authorizations if any of the conditions on the basis of which it was granted is no longer met.” In effect, the European Parliament seeks to treat law-abiding shooters as mentally ill unless proven otherwise, by forcing mandatory medical tests to assess the “physical, mental and cognitive aptitude” of gun license holders.
If mandatory medical testing was not enough, additional restrictions on possession, ownership and sales are proposed. Under the proposed regulation, “good cause” must be shown to possess a firearm. The UK ‘Section 2’ system of licensing an unlimited number of shotguns would be outlawed. Instead, a good reason must be presented for each and every firearm purchased and possessed. Private sales via the internet would be prohibited by anyone other than a licensed dealer or broker.
Although each European country has laws in place dictating the deactivation of live firearms, the proposed regulation would harmonize the requirements with the UK standard. Under the proposed regulation, “deactivation” would require completely destroying and/or removing internal parts, replacing bolt carriers with dummy parts, and welding the action so that deactivated firearms cannot function.
Finally, the potentially most troubling proposal allows the creation of an EU-wide gun registry – similar to the type of registry pursued (and recently abandoned) by Canada. Such a database would have huge implication to personal privacy and individual liberty.
A press release detailing the proposed restrictions may be found online at http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-6110_en.htm
As of press time, the proposed regulation was facing strong opposition from the European public and from a majority of Members within the European Parliament. Nevertheless, in March 2016, an amendment was proposed that would regulate magazines with a capacity of 10-rounds or more. In justifying the proposal, British Labour MEP Claude Moraes was quoted as saying that “large magazines make firearms more dangerous and should be subject to license.” As American readers know, this effort was tried in the United States from 1994 – 2004, with little to no effect on crime rates.
As most within the shooting community know, terrorists are not law abiding and compliance with these proposed laws and restrictions seems doubtful. These latest restrictions are tired, played-out arguments that gun control pundits have been arguing in support of for years. Sadly, with the increase in violence within Europe, and the lack of a personal right to possess and bear arms, the political will may be great enough to pass sweeping restrictions against firearm possession.