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Gun Laws Around the World: Where Does the European Union Stand on Firearms?

By    |   Monday, 04 May 2015 09:00 PM

While the subject of gun control is hotly debated in the United States, the European Union has a very different outlook. Unlike the U.S., where the right to individual gun ownership is protected in the constitution, regulation of firearms in the EU is seen as a legitimate and necessary role of government. This is more in line with gun laws around the world, and it’s a fundamentally different perspective than that of the U.S. While Americans see gun ownership as a right, Europeans are more likely to see it as a privilege.

The European Council Directive of 1991 bans ownership of all fully automatic weapons and restricts ownership of semi-automatic weapons and handguns. No one may own a gun without a license, and getting such a license isn’t easy. Applicants must be 18 and not deemed to be a threat to himself or herself or anyone else. In addition, applicants must provide a legitimate reason as to why they need a gun, and personal defense generally doesn’t qualify.

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This Directive sets the minimum standards for gun regulation. Member nations are free to implement stricter controls, so gun laws vary from country to country. In general, however, gun control laws in the European Union are far stricter than those in the U.S.

France
There is no constitutionally guaranteed right to gun ownership in France. Those applying for a license to own a gun must first practice shooting for six months, and that practice has to be at a club run by the French Federation of Shooting. Once the Federation has signed off on the applicant’s shooting ability, the government conducts a background check, looking for things like criminal activity, mental instability, or drug addiction. If the background check is clean, the government grants the applicant a license that is good for five years. Up to 12 guns can be associated with each license.

Germany
Like France, Germany offers its citizens no constitutional right to gun ownership. Citizens are banned from owning automatic weapons, guns disguised as other objects, and certain types of ammunition. A license is required to own a semi-automatic weapon or a handgun. Getting a license requires a background check, passing a test on firearm safety and gun laws, and a legitimate reason for needing a gun. In addition, applicants must be 21 years old or older. When it comes to ammunition, licensed gun owners can possess ammunition only for the type of gun they’re licensed to own.

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The Netherlands
The Netherlands prohibits private ownership of both automatic and semi-automatic weapons as well as certain types of ammunition. Handgun ownership requires a license. Licensing requirements include a minimum age of 18, a background check, and a proven reason for needing a gun. Licenses are good for one year and grant permission to own any number of firearms and any amount of legal ammunition.

The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the European Union. Automatic weapons and semi-automatic weapons are banned, and licensing is required for handguns, rifles, or shotguns. Licensing requirements include a genuine reason to own a gun, a background check that considers criminal activity, mental disability, and addiction, and three character references. Moreover, the law allows the government to deny a license where there is a history of or likelihood of domestic violence. Licenses are good for five years, and the government keeps records of all individuals authorized for gun ownership.

This article does not constitute legal advice. Check the current gun laws before purchasing or traveling with a firearm.

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Unlike the United States, where the right to individual gun ownership is protected in the constitution, regulation of firearms in the European Union is seen as a legitimate and necessary role of government.
gun laws, world, european union
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2015-00-04
Monday, 04 May 2015 09:00 PM
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