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Milestone reached in the fight against illegal firearms


14 Mar 2024



The negotiators from the Parliament and Council reached an agreement this morning on modernising rules to better trace imports and exports of civilian firearms, such as rifles, pistols, their components and ammunition. 

According to the EU Commission’s estimates, more than half of firearms for civilian use in Europe are illegal.

The EP negotiator, our MEP Bernd Lange, managed to significantly strengthen the new rules to ensure greater transparency in the import and export of firearms. The Council wanted to water them down so much that a large proportion of firearms would no longer have been covered by the new rules. Instead, all firearms for civilian use are now covered. 

Our negotiator also succeeded to strengthen transparency provisions. While the member states originally wanted to only share data on the import and export of firearms among themselves, they will now have to provide a detailed account in an annual report that will be made public. 

The new rules will still have to be adopted by the plenary, in April. 

Bernd Lange, S&D MEP, chair of the international trade committee (INTA) and the EP rapporteur on this file, said: 

“There are currently over 35 million illegal weapons in circulation in Europe. They are the nuts and bolts of organised crime. In a worst-case scenario, they could even be used for mass shootings. It goes without saying we must act urgently against illegal firearms. 

“With today’s agreement, we will not only have for the first time the EU’s harmonised rules for imports, but thanks to the European Parliament’s determination, we have also succeeded in retaining strong rules for exports. This will help us stop the phenomena of ‘country hopping’ where weapons move to the states with the weakest rules. In Latin American countries in particular, many illegal activities and shootings have been committed with firearms smuggled in from Europe. It is our duty to not only make Europe a safer place, but also the rest of the world.

“I am also proud that we have considerably strengthened transparency rules. The public annual reports will not only contain detailed figures on the import and export volumes of firearms at a country level, but will also provide information on the number of licences issued or refused, as well as the reasons. This will allow the European Commission to better scrutinise the member states’ implementation and hold them to account if necessary.”