MEP reassures sports shooters over new EU gun laws

Dublin MEP Brian Hayes says the Irish government will still be allowed to issue licences for target and sports shooting

House of Lords, inquiry, Brexit, Brussels, European Parliament, Brian Hayes, MEP

Fine Gael's MEP Brian Hayes | Image: RollingNews.ie

An Irish Member of the European parliament has moved to reassure gun owners that new EU firearm controls will not prohibit target and sports shooting.

The new laws were introduced in an effort to close security loopholes and tighten controls on the use of weapons within the EU following on from the Paris terror attacks in November 2015.

The measures include tighter controls on blank-firing weapons - which can be easily converted to fire live ammunition - and an obligation for EU member states to implement an appropriate monitoring system for gun licences.

Re-converted blank-firing weapons were used in the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015.

New EU firearm directive

Under the new system, all information needed to trace and identify firearms will have to be recorded in state databases and arrangements will have to be put in place to improve the exchange of information between member states.

The provisional deal was endorsed by 491 votes to 178 – although it still needs to pass the EU Council of Ministers before it is approved.

Currently, blank-firing “acoustic” firearms can be sold without authorisation in certain EU states.

The new rules will mean these firearms require full live-firing licences and will see the EU Commission adopting new deactivation standards that will see them irreversibly deactivated.

The rules will also see new stricter controls on certain semi-automatic firearms – although people who currently legally own one of these will be able to keep them - provided their own member state allows it.

Limiting semi-automatic weapons

Dublin MEP Brian Hayes welcomed the rules saying: "We have to work at an EU level to limit the use of dangerous firearms without knocking out legitimate clubs and individuals who take part in shooting as a sport.”

"Any attempt to limit the use of semi-automatic weapons across Europe has to be welcomed," he said.

“Already very high standards are applied in Ireland when it comes to gun authorisation, controlled settings and gun transfers.

“This sensible package that was voted today in Strasbourg will help the gardaí in their efforts and crucially will help all police authorities in fighting terrorism.”

Under the new directive firearms will be placed into three categories – A, B and C.

Sports shooting

Following concerns from sports shooters that guns used in target and sports shooting now fall within the prohibited Category ‘A,’ member states were granted the ability to give out the licences to certain individuals - provided they are actively practicing for or participating in shooting competitions. 

"I, like all MEPs, have received a huge amount of correspondence from citizens all over the EU criticising the new rules,” said Mr Hayes.

“I would assure them that the European Parliament did not accept the original Commission text as this would have put too much restrictions on legal owners.”

He said the amendments will give the Irish government “significant flexibility” to ensure that target and sports shooting can continue - and that category 'A' licences can be granted.

He said there is also a grandfathering clause for existing license holders.