Council Directive 91/477/EEC was designed as a measure to balance internal market objectives and security imperatives regarding 'civil' firearms.
This directive was revised first in 2008 by Directive 2008/51/EC and then in 2017 by Directive 2017/853/EC. The 2017 revision brings substantial improvements to security by making it harder to legally acquire certain high capacity weapons, such as automatic firearms transformed into semi-automatics. The firearms directive also strengthens cooperation between EU countries by improving the exchange of information between EU countries, and brings substantial improvements to traceability of firearms by improving the tracking of legally held firearms, to reduce the risk of diversion into illegal markets.
The revised directive imposes restrictions on the circulation of civil firearms and provides rights and obligations for private persons, dealers, brokers, collectors and museums. There are more flexible rules for hunting and target shooting in order to avoid unnecessary impediments.
The revised directive is applicable since autumn 2018.
Revised firearms directive
In 2015 the European Commission adopted a package of measures to make it more difficult to acquire firearms in the European Union
- A revision proposal of the firearms directive, to tighten controls on the acquisition and possession of firearms
- An implementing regulation on common minimum standards for deactivation of firearms
- An action plan against the illegal trafficking of weapons and explosives
In 2016 Council and the European Parliament reached an agreement on Commission proposal to increase citizens' security
The main changes to the firearms directive
- A ban of certain semi-automatic firearms: These include automatic firearms transformed into semi-automatic firearms, long semi-automatic firearms of length less than 60cm, long semi-automatic firearms with loading devices of more than 10 rounds, and short semi-automatic firearms with a loading device of more than 20 rounds.
- Regulation of acoustic weapons: An acoustic or salute weapon is an active weapon transformed to only shoot blank for use in theatre or cinema, e.g. Such weapons can be easily re-transformed into fully active firearms. In the future, acoustic and salute weapon can still be used in a theatre or in movies, subject to declaration, authorisation or licence depending on the category they belonged to before transformation.
- Regulation of alarm and signal weapons: An alarm and signal weapon is a device with a cartridge holder which is designed to fire only blanks, irritants, other active substances or pyrotechnic signalling rounds and which is not capable of being converted to expel a shot, bullet or projectile by the action of a combustible propellant.
- Inclusion of museums and collectors in the scope of the directive. The existing directive does not cover collectors. In the future, collectors and museums will be treated like any civilian firearms owner. They will have the possibility to acquire category A firearms but only under strict conditions.
- Deactivated weapons are included in the scope of the directive. Regulating the deactivated weapons is now subject to declaration to national authorities. Stricter rules for the deactivation of firearms were also adopted.
- Stricter conditions for the online acquisition of firearms to better control the acquisition of firearms via the internet, pieces thereof or ammunition through the internet.
- Clearer rules on marking of firearms to improve traceability: EU countries need to ensure that any firearm or part placed on the market has been marked and registered in national computerised data-filing systems.
- Conditions formedical tests: In future, all EU countries will have to put in place a system of medical check for the authorisation to acquire firearms. EU countries will define the details concerning medical checks.