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EU tightens rules on firearms

December 20, 2016

The EU's 28 member states have reached agreement for stricter gun rules, which will see some firearms banned altogether. But Europe's leaders stopped short of prohibiting Kalishnikovs.

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Image: Fotolia/Haramis Kalfar

EU officials said the proposals, which were first mooted in 2015, will restrict access to some high-caliber weapons and give law enforcement authorities new tools to trace the weapons' origins and avoid them being sold on the black market.

Support for the new rules gained traction following several terror atrocities on European soil, including the Paris, Nice and Brussels attacks over the past two years.

"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," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in statement.

But Juncker said Brussels "would have liked to go further."

Bowed to pressure

Analysts said Europe's gun lobby pressured several EU members against an all-out ban on the most lethal semi-automatic weapons such as the Kalashnikov, also known as the AK-47.

But firearms that are converted to blank firing weapons - for use in theaters or television - will be more tightly regulated, after "Islamic State" (IS) fighters behind the November 2015 Paris attacks had converted blank firing weapons back to lethal ones.

Short and long semi-automatic weapons with loading devices over 20 rounds will now face a ban, along with firearms that can be folded or concealed.

Standardized marking will be introduced for weapons' components, along with the immediate registration of firearms sales, details of which will be kept in national police databases.

The rule change is the bloc's first since 1991 and must still be voted on by the European Parliament.

Gun-control legislation differs widely across the EU. Some countries sought exemptions on buying and selling semi-automatic firearms for groups ranging from shooting clubs to collectors.

mm/rc (AFP, Reuters)