In the past two days news feeds from Swiss sources led the European shooters' community to take a deep breath. According to Simonetta Sommaruga − current head of the Swiss Department of Justice and Police, and President of Switzerland for the year 2015 − the danger for an EU-wide gun ban would be over. Swiss sources reported that the Council of the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers of the European Union would have rejected the European Council's attempts to ban military-lookalike modern sporting firearms through an amendment to the European Directive 91/477/EEC − as modified by the Directive 2008/51/EEC − on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons.
The war is thus over? Is the battle won? Not at all!
First of all, said press releases are not supported by official EU documents. No official confirmation about the EU gun plans being dropped or even just partially rejected came from the European Commission, the Council of Europe or the European Parliament; furthermore, the gun ban proposal proceeds through the IMCO and LIBE committees of the European Parliament for exam and approval or rejection: the next hearing is set for March 15th, 2016, and live web streaming will be available for all interested European citizens to follow it.
Those news releases should be intended as a more or less unintented misinterpretation of the outcomes of the meeting of the Council of the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers of the European Union, that took place in Brussels on March 10th and 11th; the final report from the meeting can be read here in its original form and here as commented by Firearms United, a confederation dedicated to defend gun owners' rights worldwide.
According to classified sources that attended the meeting and leaked information to Firearms United, the truth is actually far from positive: the Council of the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers of the European Union would just have agreed to a general exception for the members of the Army reserve of some Countries − leaving all other law-abiding citizens to be subject to the provisions of the possible ban.
The decision would have a logic on its own: the European authorities may have decided to try and break the opposition front, whose main supporters are the governments of Finland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Sweden, and other non-EU, Schengen-member Countries such as Switzerland, whose armed forces heavily rely on the activities of the reserve forces to ensure national defense.
This means that the European Union considers national defense as the only legitimate reason for the use of modern sporting rifles − which they see as "particularly dangerous", if not "weapons of war". As such, they are planning to restrict their ownership and use only to the members of reserve forces, whose shooting activities are often overseen by military authorities. Modern sporting rifles currently owned by average civilians − be them collectors, hunters, competition shooters, recreational shooters, or simple law-abiding citizens seeking for an effective mean of self-defense − should be subject to the ban, and confiscated as such.
But there's much more than meets the eye, and that's enough to give us the creeps. According to the final report, the Council of the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers of the European Union vastly agreed that "Semi-automatic firearms should continue to be authorised for civilian use, but under stricter conditions."
Here's the trick: the Council didn't wrote or talk about "Military-style semi-automatic firearms", but just of "Semi-automatic firearms", in general. If we take into the due consideration a letter sent by the European Commission on March 7th (available here in its original form and here as commented by Firearms United) to the governments of Finland and Sweden, we get a much clearer picture: the European Commission will not stop at modern sporting rifles; their goal is to uniform the gun laws of all EU-member States to the British standard, as much as possible.
And as a matter of fact, the British Government is one of the main sponsors of the proposed EU gun ban; according to some analysts, the British Government may be pushing the forced export of their gun laws to the rest of the European Union as a bargaining chip to keep the Country in the EU: Great Britain is set for a legally-binding poll in June. Currently, Britain is witnessing the surge of a movement aimed to obtain significant relaxations to the local gun laws, and the British Government may be willing to use any trick to avoid it.
The proposed EU gun ban is also more or less secretly supported by the governments of Belgium, France and Italy, whose goal is to impose restrictions to gun ownership at a national level without being forced to take political responsibility and face the wrath of the voters − particularly in a moment when not only is gun ownership extremely popular, but when issues related to rampant crime and the right to self-defense are deeply felt by the peoples of Europe.
The mention of "stricter conditions" for the civilian use of semi-automatic firearms is also chilling: what will they concoct now? We can't know − we're no sorcerers − but we can very well imagine that they'll go for magazine restrictions or to special licenses granted only to professional sporting shooters, like in Australia for certain handguns (which would explain why many European federations of dynamic shooting disciplines have been strangely silent on the matter ever since November!). Or, even worse, they may consider centralized custody in shooting ranges or Police stations.
It should thus be clear that the battle is far from over, that it's not going to end soon, and that our fiend is never going to forfeit.
As William Kullman said in front of the WFSA's plenary meeting in Nuremberg (Germany) just a couple of weeks ago, we must get used to "Play chess, not checkers": this is going to be a long battle, and patience and strategy will be the key to victory.
I am still confident that we can, and we will, prevail. But that will happen only and solely if our entire community and all stakeholders − manufacturers, distributors, retailers, as well as all hunters, sport shooters, collectors and simple gun owners at large − will come together as a force to be reckoned with by the bureaucrats in Brussels and Strasbourg, as well as by the national government of the 28 EU-member Countries. All will have to face the fact that the acceptance and the implementation of the European Commission's plans for the modification of the firearms directive would mean a social, economic and political disaster, and would cause the very same public safety issues that it officially seeks to avoid!
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