European Union lawmakers voted on Tuesday to reinforce the coalition’s gun laws and close gaps that are used by attackers. The vote was 491-178 with 28 refraining. E.U. countries will now toughen the laws on specific firearms, specifically ones that fire blanks, ensuring that they are unable to be converted to use live ammunition. It will also require those who want to buy one must get a permit. Laws will also be stricter for semi-automatic weapons with high capacity magazines.
Blank-firing guns with the right tweaks can be just as deadly as the real thing and this is a snowballing problem for countries that are trying to toughen laws on gun-related crime. They are attractive to the bad guys because they cheap, disposable and essentially untraceable. In Germany, roughly two-thirds of all firearms seized by authorities in 2012 were converted weapons. Converted weapons were used in the 2015 French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo attack that killed 12 people.
In the U.S. the problem with converted weapons is not as prominent since the gun laws are more lax but in Europe, gun laws are harsh so these types of weapons have been more and more used by organized criminal groups. However, even in the Middle Eastern countries these guns are popular because of the affordability.