Myth: Cheap weaponry, easily available in many other European countries, will flood into the UK due to the elimination of trade barriers with the Single Market coming into effect. Thus it will also be much easier for criminals to bring in weapons.
Response: Long before 1 January 1993 the EC and its Member States decided to reinforce cooperation between customs offices to combat on the one hand fraud and on the other illegal trafficking (arms, drugs, etc). As from the end of 1993 a computerised system linking 350 customs offices will come into effect, enabling them to send immediate details to specific contacts of suspect goods, means of transport, persons and businesses. They will also have access to a series of databases. This cooperation also extends to improving controls and enquiries on sensitive products at external frontiers. At the same time the EC Member States’ Justice and Interior Ministers have made the fight against organised crime a priority. The setting up of the system of information exchange via Europol is well under way. The ratification of the Maastricht Treaty on European Union will lead to a considerable strengthening of customs, police and legal cooperation.
The Community has also harmonised the national laws which regulate the sale of firearms to individuals. Each Member State introducing more stringent rules on their respective territories should they so wish. As a result of harmonisation, it is more difficult to buy dangerous weapons today than it was before 1992. Arms which can be bought without restriction are from now on limited to the least dangerous single-shot firearms; whilst particularly dangerous weapons are banned. Between these two extremes the sales of all other types of arms are subject to a prior authorisation, without which the arms “dealer” cannot supply his customer. The are exceptions for hunting guns which are subject to a single declaration throughout the whole Community. Dealers are obliged to keep a register with all the details so as to enable the weapons, suppliers and buyers of arms to be identified. They may not sell arms to nationals of other Member States unless customers has obtained a prior authorisation from the authorities in their home country. A computerised information network between the Member States will ensure closer checks on transfers from one country to another of legal and illegal arms. Transactions between private individuals in second¬hand arms are included in these controls since in all the Member States the seller is obliged to inform the authorities; otherwise he runs the risk of prosecution. Arms transfers from one country to another are also the subject of very strict rules. Private individuals, including hunters and persons involved in target shooting should acquaint themselves with these before attempting to travel with their guns.
It should be noted that no EC directive has harmonised national legislation on defence weapons such as anti-rape aerosols or those used in certain Japanese martial arts. Here the Community traveller would be wise to get to know the rules that apply in the country being visited before setting out.