The EU has agreed on stricter gun controls in the wake of multiple terror attacks across Europe.
In November last year, the European Commission proposed new laws that would restrict access to high-calibre weapons and give police greater powers to track guns in a bid to stop them being sold on the black market.
The move came after two Daesh-inspired fanatics attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January 2015. The automatic weapons used in the atrocity are thought to have been purchased illegally in Slovakia before being smuggled into France.
Revisions to the EU’s Firearms Directive include a ban on some semi-automatic weapons, but do not completely outlaw ownership of the most dangerous of these types of firearms, such as AK-47s.
“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,” the European Commission said.
The package of measures also includes plans to introduce stricter standards for the deactivation of firearms, and the targeting of weapons traffickers in the EU and across the Western Balkans, Turkey, Ukraine, the Middle East and North Africa.
President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “We have fought hard for an ambitious deal that reduces the risk of shootings in schools, summer camps or terrorist attacks with legally held firearms. Of course we would have liked to go further, but I am confident that the current agreement represents a milestone in gun control in the EU.”
Since the Charlie Hebdo atrocity, Europe has witnessed a number of mostly Islamist-inspired terror attacks involving illicit firearms, culminating in last week’s truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. After stealing the lorry he used to commit the atrocity, perpetrator Anis Amri shot the vehicle’s driver in the head with a shotgun.
Experts have repeatedly warned that the ease with which criminal gangs are able to move weapons around the EU has been a major enabling factor in numerous terror attacks, including last November’s Paris assault. The fact that gun traffickers are unable to get weapons across the English Channel with similar ease is thought to be one of the reasons the UK has avoided a major mass-casualty terror attack for over a decade.
It is believed that terrorists are able to obtain weapons in Europe so easily thanks in part to the Balkans wars of the 1990s, which left millions firearms in the region after the break-up of Yugoslavia. Criminal gangs from Eastern Europe are able to easily smuggle these weapons into the EU, sometimes broken up into component parts, and have no qualms about selling them on to terrorists.