On Tuesday, the European Union approved stricter gun rules but refused to support a complete ban on the most lethal semi-automatic weapons. There has been a trend towards harsher EU rules that govern the purchase and sale of such weapons since two Islamist gunmen shot dead 12 people in the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. Militants killed 130 people in attacks in Paris in November last year.
Proposed in 2015, but not favored by the bloc’s 28 nations, the rules restrict access to some high-caliber weapons and make it easier to track guns to avoid them being sold on the black market. Even with the 28 nation opposition, the European Commission’s plan to ban private citizens from owning weapons like the Russian-made AK-47 failed to gain enough support from member states.
European Commission 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.”
Gun-control legislation varies greatly across the EU. Some countries sought exemptions on buying and selling semi-automatic firearms for groups ranging from shooting clubs to collectors.
Finland, which shares an 833 mile border with Russia and runs a mandatory military service for all men, had opposed the Commission’s initial proposal, saying it would have harmed the training of its voluntary reservist clubs. But the Nordic country welcomed Tuesday’s political agreement.
“I am very pleased with the outcome,” Interior Minister Paula Risikko said.