The Committee on International Trade on Tuesday adopted a draft report on the import and export of firearms for civilian use.
MEPs backed the draft report on making the import and export of firearms more transparent and traceable by 26 votes, 2 votes against and 3 abstentions. This vote establishes Parliament's position for negotiations with the Council of member states on the regulation, expected to gain plenary support in November.
The Commission proposed to revise rules in 2022, as currently it is not mandatory for member states to provide electronic data on import and export of firearms for civilian use. A new EU electronic licensing system for manufacturers and dealers will replace the mostly paper-based national systems. Better information exchange between countries’ authorities will make it more difficult for individuals “shopping” around in the EU to obtain import or export authorisation. The new rules would also make it mandatory to mark imported guns and their essential components, improving traceability and avoiding so-called “ghost guns”, firearms that are reassembled with non-marked components.
In the draft report, MEPs call for the electronic licensing system to be "fully functioning as soon as possible”. MEPs also ask for an annual public report by the Commission on firearm export and import. It should include the number of authorisations and refusals, and information on the administration and the enforcement of controls at EU and national level. MEPs also argue that rule-breaking firms should be sanctioned proportionately in line with their annual global turnover.
There are an estimated 35 million illicit firearms owned by civilians in the EU, corresponding to 56% of the estimated total of firearms, and around 630,000 firearms are listed as stolen or lost in the Schengen Information System, according to the Commission’s data.
“The figures are simply shocking and unacceptable. What is even worse is that the member states do not even have to submit mandatory data on imports and exports. For imports, there are no figures at all. Therefore, the number of illegal firearms could be even higher. But without reliable data, it is almost impossible to take targeted measures. All unregistered firearms could, in the worst case, be used for a mass shooting, for example. The more illegal weapons are available, the easier it is to get hold of a weapon to commit a crime. We must therefore finally create a harmonised legal framework for import and export controls without loopholes,” Bernd Lange (S&D, DE), Chair of the Committee on International Trade and rapporteur of the file, said, adding: "The European Commission's approach, with its focus on traceability, quality of data and exchange of information between member states, was going in the right direction. But we have sharpened it even further. We also put a special focus on transparency. Why should the number of imports and exports be secret? We demand that these figures be disclosed by member states not only to the European Commission, but also to the European Parliament and to the public. Everyone should have the right to know what is going on in Europe with firearms for civilian use. We have already done this in a similar way with the current Dual-Use Regulation, which also deals with sensitive goods, and we should not fall behind this standard,“
The draft report will serve as the mandate for Parliament for negotiations with the Council of member states, if there are no objections to it at Plenary’s plenary session, likely in November. Talks can start as soon as Council adopts its own position.
Following the terrorist attacks in Europe of the last decade, the EU decided to update its legislation on civilian firearms. In October 2022, the Commission presented a proposal for a regulation on import, export and transit measures for firearms, their essential components and ammunition to reduce the risk of trafficking and ensure traceability.