Blog AnalysisPolice Terrorism

Control of semi-automatic weapons. Ladies and gentlemen take your responsibilities

(B2) The arms control directive is in its final stretch. It will not be as ambitious as hoped for by the European Commission, which saw its proposal demolished by several parliamentarians, worked on the body by an arms lobby which often hit below the belt rather than above (see framed). Several arguments have thus been used by them, sometimes not quite exactly... even with manifest bad faith. Detail Review

Am I allowed to own a gun?

No. There is no right to own a weapon (especially when it is lethal), at the level of the European Union (as in France). The arms market has always been an exception to the principle of free movement of goods and merchandise. The possession of weapons is therefore an exception, strictly regulated. The 1991 directive — revised in 2008 — testifies to this. This is due to the principle of security – not leaving too many weapons in circulation – as well as a principle of public order, relating to the role of the modern state in Europe: ensuring the monopoly of coercion and violence. This provision is moreover anchored precisely in the European Treaty (article 346) authorizing a State to take any measure necessary for the protection of its national interests.

Any Member State may take the measures which it considers necessary for the protection of the essential interests of its security and which relate to the production of or trade in arms, munitions and war material; these measures must not adversely affect the conditions of competition in the internal market as regards products not intended for specifically military purposes. (article 346 TFEU §1b)

Does this proposal jeopardize national security?

It is a false argument. A State has the possibility, for reasons of national interest, of adapting the rules of the internal market. This is Article 346 of the Treaty (see above). The Treaty also establishes as a general exception to the rules of the Treaty matters relating to national security. " In particular, national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member State (Article 4 TEU). We can consider that all the rules relating to conscription (compulsory national service) come under this provision.

There is a profusion of illicit weapons, why regulate the legal market?

It's true. But experience has shown that it is not so easy for "supervised" or "ordinary" people (according to the popular expression "well in every respect"), apparently who are going to commit a crime of obtaining weapons on the black market. They thus use the "white" market (legal) or the "grey" market (neither legal nor illegal) to obtain the weapons which will be used for acts of mass killing, even possibly for terrorism. It is so easy to deneutralize a weapon, why bother to get an illegal weapon, with real risks.

Do we have any examples of legal weapons being used to commit terrorist acts or crimes?

It's wrong. One need only look at the long list to see that mass crimes are often committed with more or less legally acquired weapons. Read : Massacres with semi-automatic weapons… To refresh your memory


You can commit a terrorist act with a knife, a truck (Nice)...?

It's true. These are weapons by destination that can today prove to be just as dangerous as semi-automatic or automatic weapons. We saw it in Nice, a truck directed against a crowd can do considerable damage. But this kind of argument is not really acceptable. The basic principle of the rule of law is not to promote laissez-faire but to limit as much as possible the means for a person to threaten the lives of others, to sow terror or insecurity. Gold, beforehand, assault rifle-type weapons that match or even outweigh law enforcement, are a very clear element of threat. Apart from individual acts of terrorism, the circulation of weapons of this type, which could be used in the hands of determined people, constitutes a certain risk of threat, not only at the level of terrorism but also of a certain risk of coup d'etat ( problem that cannot be evacuated).

There are more deaths by road accident than by mass killings?

That's right. In the same way that there are more police deaths by suicide than by a terrorist act. But it is all the resonance of an act of mass killing or terrorism against symbols of the State that are at stake in an act of terrorism. It is not in itself the number of victims that has an impact. It is the act itself which aims to intimidate the population, to destabilize society, to threaten the State, which is dangerous. This kind of argument is not really acceptable: in this case, we would have to drop any fight against crime which, in statistical terms, also claim few victims. It's a... dumb argument.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

A lobby that hits below the belt

The pro-weapons lobby was not content with the usual lobbying tools — arguments, mass mailings, leaflets, conferences. He used questionable methods. Aggressive email campaigns have been systematically organized against European civil servants (Commission, Council) who follow this subject. The emails sometimes contained thinly veiled threats of death (coffin). Some received it at their private address.

One of the civil servants who spoke to the European Parliament during a hearing (organized by the IMCO committee with the... support of the pro-arms lobby (original!) was the subject of an intensive email campaign, with a photomontage where we saw him decked out in Nazi insignia.

B2 has witnessed this first-hand in this campaign. Each article that we have been able to do on the subject has raised relatively well-organized comments, developing a rather ritualistic grid of arguments, of such rare aggressiveness that we have been obliged to send warning replies (with threat to report IP to authorities) and to include a warning in the articles.

These behaviors are largely intolerable, moreover by arms owners who claim to be heralds of democracy "against totalitarianism" and the "dictatorship" of the Commission (quote). If the expression of each remains free, it knows however certain limits. Moreover, they reinforce the idea that leaving automatic or semi-automatic weapons in the hands of people who are already unable to control their language is more than dangerous.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).