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Museum gun collections do not face “near destruction” under revised EU gun control laws

December 22nd, 2015

Claims that some of the UK’s most famous museums would have to destroy their historic gun collections as part of EU plans to tighten gun controls – “EU takes aim at museum gun collections” (Daily Telegraph, 18 December) – are way off target.

As part of efforts to prevent gun massacres by terrorists such as the tragic events in Paris and those by disturbed loners seen all too often in the US , the European Commission published proposals to further toughen up EU rules on the acquisition and possession of weapons (Firearms Directive).

Museums such as The Royal Armouries Museum and the National Army Museum were concerned that the new rules on permanently deactivating weapons might require  them to damage the antique workings of thousands of historic guns in case they fell into the wrong hands.

But the museums’ fears were misplaced. Museums run by public authorities continue to be exempt from these gun control laws. We could have told the Telegraph this if it had asked us.

Instead it reported incorrectly that: “Thousands of guns in British museums could be ‘mutilated’ under new law from Brussels”.

However, to be fair to the newspaper, it did agree promptly to correct its story.


The revisions proposed under the Firearms Directive include a ban on certain semi-automatic firearms being held by private persons, even if they have been permanently deactivated, tighter rules on the online acquisition of firearms, key parts or ammunition via the internet, improving traceability of weapons as well as better sharing of information on those refused authorisations to own firearms and the obligation to interconnect national weapons registers.

But the proposed amendments (published  here together with supporting explanatory information on the 18 November) do not, as reported, include the deletion of Article 2.2, with wording similar to the 2008 rules, which exempts public authorities from the scope of the directive.

To clarify the proposed text reads:

Museum gun collections do not face “near destruction” under revised EU gun control laws

(2) In Article 2, paragraph 2 is replaced by the following:

‘2. This Directive shall not apply to the acquisition or possession of weapons and ammunition, in accordance with national law, by the armed forces, the police, public authorities. Nor shall it apply to commercial transfers of weapons and ammunition of war. Nor shall it apply to commercial transfers of weapons and ammunition of war.

As usual, the proposed amendments put forward by the Commission need to be approved by MEPs and EU government ministers.


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Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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