Europeans Push Back Against Gun Control

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posted on January 6, 2016
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The European Commission (EC) is still planning to enact comprehensive gun-control legislation, including a complete ban on certain semi-automatic firearms, that would apply to all member nations of the European Union (EU). While potential opponents largely kept quiet in the immediate wake of the Paris terror attacks, an increasingly vocal contingent is now expressing discomfort over the scope of the pending reform. And while we might expect to see pushback from within the ranks of European gun owners, some opposition to the new legislative package is also coming from the highest levels of government. “After this conversation I do not expect the draft to come into force in its present form.” — Joachim Streitberger

An article appearing in Politico soon after the Paris attacks alluded to the high degree of coordinated opposition to the gun-control package that could be expected from hunting and sporting groups in countries such as Germany. True to this prediction, lobbyists representing several gun clubs were issued an invitation by the German Interior Ministry (BMI) to discuss the new legislation and whether it should be modified.

While the BMI emphasized to the public that the government body had not reached any final conclusions, the participants from the gun clubs appeared happy with the meeting. “The proposal contains things that the BMI said would be difficult for them, and where changes would be called for,” said Joachim Streitberger, head of an association of German shooting ranges. “After this conversation I do not expect the draft to come into force in its present form.” It may be that the government does not require much persuasion by representatives of the firearms industry; an article published in Der Spiegel presents evidence that Germany’s leaders do not want the gun-control package to pass in its current state. 

While concern in Germany appears to be motivated largely by the needs of hunters and sport shooters, Finland opposes the gun-control reform on different grounds: The government states that voluntary firearms training is an indispensable part of the nation’s civil defense tradition. Adult Finnish males are expected to perform compulsory military service, and after leaving active duty they are placed in the nation’s reserves. They are subsequently expected to take refresher courses on their own time, and this training utilizes semi-automatic rifles that would likely be banned under the EC’s coming law. 

Finnish Interior Minister Petteri Orpo has argued that in its present form, the proposed gun-control package will jeopardize national defense. As a country with a long border with Russia—and a history of being invaded by its more powerful neighbor—Finland is unwilling to give up its access to an armed and well-trained populace. Sweden has also expressed concern over limiting the range of firearms used for hunting, while the Czech Republic—one of the rare European nations with a robust concealed-carry tradition—has also voiced its opposition. We hope to see further developments as responsible gun owners—and sensible governments—push back against the one-size-fits-all gun control devised by the European Commission.

It is hard to gauge whether the threat of harsh gun control is driving gun sales in European countries, given that they have been on the rise even before the legislation was announced. In Germany and Austria—both of which are rumored to oppose the comprehensive gun-control package—concern for self-defense has led to a spike in firearm sales. People in both countries are worried about an increased threat of crime and terrorism as a wave of refugees breaks upon eastern and central Europe. 

Another theme that emerges from the gun debate in Europe is simple common sense about what laws can accomplish, a refrain that the NRA often has cause to repeat. “Weapons law, by definition, is only concerned with legal weapon owners, because they stick to the law,” says Streitberger, the German gun lobbyist. “The criminal doesn’t care one bit what is in the law. The paradox is to try to use the law to avoid disadvantaging the law-abiding, while regulating the law-breaker, and that’s a paradox that a lawmaker can’t solve. Which weapon used in Paris was legally owned?” 

We hope to see further developments as responsible gun owners—and sensible governments—push back against the one-size-fits-all gun control devised by the European Commission. As Europeans face a renewed threat of terrorism, what they don’t need are fewer good guys with guns.

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Frank Miniter
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