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European Union: New Regulation on Export, Import, and Transit of Firearms

(Mar. 30, 2012) On March 8, 2012, the European Union (EU) adopted a new Regulation to ratify the UN Protocol on Firearms. (UN Protocol General Assembly Resolution A/RES/55/255, June 8, 2001, UN website.) The Commission had signed the Protocol in 2002 on behalf of the EU. (Press Release, European Commission, Council Adopts Commission Proposal to Combat Trafficking of Firearms(Mar. 8, 2012).)

A key objective of the Regulation is to combat illegal arms trafficking with third countries, outside the EU, since the EU has already adopted rules regulating the possession of firearms and their transfer within EU territory. (Directive 2008/51/EC on Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Weapons, 2008 OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (L179) 5.)

The new Regulation transposes article 10 of the UN Protocol on General Requirements for Export, Import, and Transit Licensing or Authorization Systems. This article requires states that are parties to the Protocol to create or maintain a system of export and import licensing or authorization of firearms. Consequently, the Regulation stipulates rules for export, import, and transit of firearms, their components, and ammunition. It also provides for a simplified procedure regulating temporary export, import, and transit of small numbers of firearms for “verifiable lawful purposes,” such as exhibit, repair, or sporting. purposes. The scope of the Regulation extends only to firearms for civilian use; thus it excludes those firearms intended for military purposes. (Release, supra.)

Cecilia Malmström, Member of the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, expressed her appreciation at the adoption of this Regulation by the Parliament and the Council and emphasized that “stronger control of firearms entering or leaving the EU will help us prevent their misuse.” (Id.)