The European Union announced last week its latest slate of draconian gun control measures. The new regulations cover everything from museums and collectors to medical tests but stop short of imposing a total ban on AR-15s and AK-47s.
The Commission handed down nine major changes to EU gun law, but the most drastic revision imposes a total ban on “dangerous” semi-automatic firearms. These firearms include automatic weapons modified to be semi-automatic, long guns less than 60 cm (23.6 in) in length, long guns with “loading devices” of more than 10 rounds, and “short guns” with loading devices of more than 20 rounds.
Reading between the lines, residents of the EU will still be able to possess AR and AK pattern rifles as long as they do not use magazines of more than 10 rounds. Pistol magazines will be capped at 20.
While European gun owners no doubt breathed a sigh of relief, the Commission said they would have liked “a complete ban of the most dangerous semi-automatic firearms, including all semi-automatic firearms of the AK47 or AR15 families.” They would have also liked to impose a magazine ban on anything greater than 10 rounds, regardless of firearm length.
The Commission failed to impose all the restrictions it wanted due to opposition from several unidentified “co-legislators.” European countries tend to have stricter gun laws than the United States, but several countries like Switzerland have long traditions of gun ownership. These countries may have opposed the total ban on AR-15s, though the official Commission report does not say one way or the other.
Even though AR-15s and AK-47s are not totally banned, the new directives will still end one of Switzerland’s longest standing traditions. As we reported earlier this year, nearly every male Swiss citizen serves in the military and learns how to use a rifle. For many years Swiss citizens have been allowed to keep their rifles once they leave the service, provided it has been modified to only fire one round per trigger-pull.
The new directive prohibits ownership of any automatic firearm modified to be semi-automatic. It also explicitly states that the new laws will apply to Switzerland, even though Switzerland is not a member of the EU. Unless Swiss authorities are able to come to some kind of compromise with EU officials, Swiss citizens will no longer be allowed to keep their service rifles.
The new laws also impose harsher restrictions on weapons that could easily be modified to fire live ammunition. “Alarm and acoustic weapons” and deactivated weapons will in the future be regulated in the same manner as standard firearms. The Commission’s directive will also treat museums and collectors like civilian firearm owners.
One of the strangest new regulations forces member countries to institute medical tests for firearm ownership. Details regarding medical tests will be determined by member states, but it’s unclear precisely what these tests could entail.
Before becoming official, the new regulations will be subject to a confirmation by the European Parliament’s Internal Market Committee in January followed by a European Parliament plenary vote, as Reuters reported. While there is a slim chance that these new restrictions stumble along the way, all signs suggest that they will be formally adopted by the EU Council of Ministers.