BRUSSELS (HPD) — The European Union took action Thursday to toughen laws on the trade and transportation of arms, to help keep illicit firearms out of the hands of criminal gangs amid concerns that the war in Ukraine may increase the spread of illegal weapons.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, estimates there are some 35 million illicit weapons in civilian hands in the 27-nation bloc. Some 630,000 firearms are listed as stolen in the EU’s border and security database.
The commission’s actions would imply clearer and more common procedures for the import, export and transit of firearms and ammunition. In addition, an electronic licensing system for import and export applications would be established to replace the current slower paper systems that most countries have.
Stricter standards would also be imposed on the manufacture of alarm and signal weapons, which fire things like volleys or tear gas. Such weapons were modified and used by extremists in the bloody Paris attacks and in the bombing of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015.
End-user certificates would be required for certain types of weapons to ensure that the recipient does not plan to transfer them to someone else, which will help reduce the risk that the weapons could turn up on the black market.
The Commission insists that the measures will not restrict the possession of weapons and, in fact, will simplify procedures for hunters, competition shooters and exhibitors.
Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson urged EU member states and the European Parliament to quickly adopt such measures.
The proposals were drafted long before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, but Johansson said the conflict has raised concern because weapons that were used in conflict in Yugoslavia in the 1990s are still finding their way into Europe.