Figures released by the European Commission have shown that in the EU as a whole, more than one thousand people are victims of homicide by firearms each year, and half a million firearms that have been registered as lost or stolen in the EU remain unaccounted for.
The Commission has also published the results of a Eurobarometer survey showing that six in ten Europeans actually believe that the level of crime involving firearms is likely to increase over the next five years; in addition, around 55% of Europeans apparently want stricter regulation on who is allowed to own, buy or sell firearms.
The Commission is therefore putting forward ideas to address weaknesses in the EU across the whole lifecycle of weapons, including production, sale, possession, trade, storage and deactivation, while respecting strong traditions of lawful gun use, such as sports shooting and hunting.
The suggestions include:
- Stricter common EU-wide rules on how to deactivate firearms might ensure that once firearms have been taken out of use they remain inoperable.
- Looking at a common approach on how to mark firearms with serial numbers when they are manufactured in order to help trace those used by criminals.
- The consideration of EU legislation with common minimum rules on criminal sanctions to ensure that deterrence works in all Member States, and that there are no legal loopholes for traffickers. Such rules could prescribe which firearm offences should be subject to criminal sanctions (illicit manufacture, trafficking, tampering with markings, illegal possession of a firearm and intent to supply firearm), as well as specifying the level of sanctions that should be imposed by Member States.
- The Commission will also look at how to reduce the threat of diversion from third countries through technical assistance, including to reinforce their arms export control systems, close down smuggling routes and better manage stockpiles of military weapons.
The Commission intends to discuss these suggestions with the European Parliament, Member States and stakeholders to assess the different options, including legislative action.
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