New directive could mean end of free market for firearms in EU

Commentary: The EU-approved regulatory framework is aimed at leveling the playing field in the sector, specifically for ballistics compliance and new types of firearms 

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By Ella Rosenberg

Firearms manufactures, dealers and operators who are operating in the European Union (hereinafter- EU) or considering approaching European clients will soon have to re-adapt their commercial and regulatory practices when working in the European Market. 

The EU Commission has approved a regulatory framework that will create a new level playing field for the firearms sector in the EU, specifically for new types of firearms and ballistics compliance. This regulatory framework has resulted from the terror attacks of 2015 in Europe. 

It is also the first time in the history of the EU that digital printing of firearms is been taken into consideration. The mere fact that an instrument has the appearance of a firearm, regardless of the manufacturer and dealer, and if the firearm can be converted to expel a shot, bullet or projectable, the instrument shall be deemed a firearm. 

Secondly, the Directive makes a distinction between a dealer and a broker. A dealer shall be deemed a dealer in case of a natural or legal person, who manufactures firearms and firearm parts, exchanges, trades or repairs or converts them. 

A broker on the other hand, shall be deemed any legal or natural person who negotiates or arranges transactions in the field of firearms. 

The scope of the field of firearms has also been enhanced. Firearms are now regarded as any instrument which has a portable weapon that expels ammunition. Within this scope fall military drones with projectable ammunition and digitally printed firearms. 

The conditions for issuing a European Firearms Pass will be reviewed by each Member State. Both dealers and brokers will have to pass an enhanced due diligence process. The current criterion Pass will be valid for five years, will be issued for natural persons and shall not be transferable. 

Each Member State will have to implement the rules within their own legal and regulatory framework. 

The Court of Justice of the European Union (hereinafter- CJEU) has rejected a case lodged by the Czech Republic on the graveness of the new Directive. Czech Republic argued that the new Directive does not ensure the free movement of firearms in the EU, which is arguably a hindrance in the notion of an Economic Union. At the same time, Czech Republic also argued that there is an exceeding level of legislation in this sector, which does not fall in conformity with EU Law. 

The CJEU dismissed the case and claimed that the Member State’s claims were unfounded. 

Firearms dealers and manufactures should also bear in mind that new firearms instruments also fall under this Directive, and proper compliance should be taken into account when approaching the EU Market and approaching EU clients. 

The Directive may seem as over-regulation, but in order to ensure a stable and economically sound union, the new conditions are pivotal for the development of the market. 

The only point that is left now is the compliance of firearms dealers and manufacturers. Without a sound regulatory firearms framework, they will find it impossible to operate in the EU.


Ella Rosenberg, an EU Law Regulatory Consultant, is CEO of the Israel-EU Chamber of Commerce and Industry.