Europe is trying to make it harder for weapons to end up in the hands of terrorists. Hence, the European Commission’s November 18 call for a stronger coordinated European approach to control the use of weapons and fight against the trafficking of firearms.
The Commission proposes amending the EU Firearms Directive to make it more difficult to acquire firearms in the Member States. The EU Firearms Directive defines the rules under which private persons can acquire and possess weapons, as well as the transfer of firearms to another EU country.
Deactivated firearms and even flare guns would also be subject to stricter use and circulation rules as part of the amended directive.
Most of the European Union’s interior ministers have pushed to rush the amendment through, hot on the heels of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 dead.
Two not on board
However two countries, Finland and the Czech Republic, oppose the stricter measures, arguing that their unique national policy would be detrimentally affected as a result.
“We support the directive, but we have a national defence-related concern that should be resolved over the course of the process,” said Finland’s Interior Minister Petteri Orpo after the November 20 meeting in Brussels.
Finland and the Czech Republic have both submitted their reservations about the proposed amendments to the EU. The Czech Republic has a long history of permissive gun control, permitting citizens to carry a concealed weapon for self-defense.
Sweden has also said it would have difficulty accepting a decision that would limit the kinds of firearms people can use for hunting, a concern Finland also shares.
Orpo: Apples and oranges
Finnish reservists use semi-automatic weapons in their refresher course training.
All conscripts that have completed military service in Finland are placed in reserve and are required to attend refresher courses from time to time. Refresher courses form an essential part of the peacetime training system of the Finnish Defence Forces and have a significant impact on the country’s defence capability.
How the stricter directive will affect gun collectors in Finland is also a problem. The Commission proposes including collectors in the scope of the law, since collectors have been identified as a possible source of firearms traffic. In the future, collectors will have the possibility to acquire firearms, but would be subject to the same authorisation and declaration requirements as private persons.
“The concerns in question are completely different in scale. I don’t want to downplay the importance of the issue (reservist firearms) for Finns or the national defence aspect; it must be taken seriously. It must be taken care of, but even so, the fight against terrorism is a big concern,” said Orpo.
Hunting and military exercises
Semi-automatic firearms ready themselves for discharge again immediately after firing, allowing the wielder to shoot as quickly as the trigger can be pressed until the weapon runs out of ammunition.
According to the Ministry, reservists use the firearms in so-called practical shooting exercises, for “practical shooting practice in scenarios that mimic real-life weapon use”.
Several semi-automatic sporting rifles and shotguns are also currently available for hunters’ use.
EU sources contacted by the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle did not initially understand the use of semi-automatic firearms for hunting, and were not familiar with Finland’s reservist operations.
Interior Minister Orpo’s reservation appeal only made mention of Finland’s national defence concern.