The European Commission, Firearms Directive amendments and fieldsports

The European Commission (EC) has suggested some changes to the EU Firearms Directive. While these proposals have not yet been adopted, it is worth considering how they might affect legislation in the UK if they do in fact become part of the Firearms Directive. What of the Firearms Directive amendments and fieldsports? The proposals outline a strengthening of the control of firearms across the entire EU, but as many changes feature discrepancies and contradictions it is also worth contemplating how they could impact popular fieldsports such as grouse shooting and deer stalking.

Firearms and medical tests

One proposal is to mandate that firearms applicants undergo a standardized medical test.  This would (presumably) be used to identify potential issues that people may have and tailor access to firearms accordingly.  Depending on the type and extent of these standardized tests, they may be something that is outside of the compliance capabilities of the current system. Without more information on this proposal, it is impossible to say for sure what the appropriate UK legislation in this area could be, which is a concern.

Sounds moderators required?

Another proposal is to bring “sound moderators” under the coverage of the Firearms Directive. Given that the UK already has legislation which classifies a sound moderator as an accessory, it is likely that the UK laws in this area are already in compliance with the Directive even if this proposal is adopted. Depending on the final format, additional legislation may be necessary, but at this point it seems that existing legislation will be sufficient.

Weapons collectors now included

A proposal which would probably bring about more change in UK laws is the proposal to bring collectors of firearms under the Directive. Although collectors are already required to hold a license in the UK—and thus we are likely compliant in that regard—this could end up changing what collectors are allowed to do: currently, collectors can own items such as deactivated weapons (for example, machine guns or antique shotguns that may be family heirlooms) as well as disguised weapons such as “walking stick firearms.”  However, under the proposed changes to the Directive, only approved museums would be able to own such items, and the items would be required to be deactivated.  It is also possible that individuals who collect various types of ammunition could be prohibited from doing so under the Directive.

Tighter rules on deactivated firearms

Another proposal is to tighten the standard for deactivating firearms before they are sold.  This proposal likely would not have a significant impact on UK legislation as the standards already in place are probably adequate to comply with the proposal.  If the current owner of a deactivated weapon decides to sell or transfer ownership thereof, at the time of the sale or transfer it is possible that the weapon would need to be brought into compliance with the standard imposed by the Directive.

Moving forward

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (“BASC”) is proactively taking steps to address these, and other, proposals.  By engaging in dialogue with The Home Office, the Department of Justice (Northern Ireland), The Federation of European hunting associations, and other sister organizations, BASC are working to promote safety and responsible ownership of firearms and the safe enjoyment of popular fieldsports.

BASC believe that the proper way to address the illegal use of firearms is to employ a separate legal instrument rather than changing the current Firearms Directive. Regardless of the mechanism used to combat the illegal ownership and use of firearms, it is necessary to accurately assess the impact and outcome of the mechanism in order to ensure that unintended outcomes (especially those which disproportionately and unfairly harm legitimate users of firearms) are minimized or avoided altogether.

Additional information about the proposed changes can be found on the BASC website, and BASC are currently urging members to get in touch with their MEPs to raise any concerns that may impact on their way of life, shooting hobbies and fieldsports in general.

You can stay up to date on the latest developments by visiting the EU website.