What happened in Brussels yesterday was abject barbarism. Once again Europe found itself in the crosshairs of the Islamic State. ISIS claimed responsibility for the two bomb attacks that killed over 30 people yesterday and wounded hundreds. So, given that Europe has been vulnerable to international terrorism longer than the United States, a situation that’s exacerbated by the millions of Syrian refugees pouring into the continent; why are European nations not loosening their gun laws that would allow their citizens to protect themselves? In fact, in the aftermath of the equally egregious Paris attacks in November, also committed by ISIS, Brussels actually pushed for more gun control (via NRA-ILA):
On November 18, the European Commission expedited a plan to overhaul the European Union’s already restrictive gun control laws. The move comes in the immediate wake of November 13th’s terrorist shooting and bombing attacks that killed 129 in Paris, France. Just how the European Commission expects new restrictions on civilian firearm ownership to influence the behavior of suicidal violent extremists with access to explosives and military-grade ordnance, remains unclear.
Currently, the EU sets a minimum threshold of gun control that all member countries must enact. Countries are free to adopt further gun restrictions, and some do (i.e., United Kingdom).
At present, EU law (Directive 91/477/EEC) requires (amongst other restrictions) that member states:
· Maintain a computerized data-filing system including “each firearm’s type, make, model, calibre and serial number, as well as the names and addresses of the supplier and the person acquiring or possessing the firearm,” and “ensure that all firearms may be linked to their owner at any moment.”
· Disqualify individuals from firearm possession and acquisition based on set criteria, such as age and criminal history.
· Only permit firearm possession and acquisition by “persons who have good cause.”
· Require individuals to obtain government authorization before to acquire or possess any handgun, nearly all semi-automatic long-guns, and certain types of shotguns.
· Require individuals to declare to government authorities their possession of bolt, pump, and lever-action firearms, single-shot rifles, and certain semi-automatics not subject to prior government authorization.
· Ban automatic firearms, and expanding handgun ammunition (other than for purposes of hunting).
· The European Commission’s new proposal would impose a number of new restrictions to the current regulatory framework.
Current EU law permits individuals to possess and acquire “[s]emi-automatic firearms for civilian use which resemble weapons with automatic mechanisms.” This, however, is subject to obtaining authorization from their government, which is in turn is subject to strict EU mandates on who may possess or acquire firearms.
It may be time for Europe to rethink its gun laws and encourage an aggressive self-defense ethos in the wake of these attacks. The frontman for Eagles of Death Metal said recently that France's gun laws kept people vulnerable and were ineffective when terrorists stormed the Bataclan, which is where the band was performing that night. Yes, it may be a pie-in-the-sky wish list, but one thing is for sure; the ads that mocked the possibility of such an attack, which ran two months ago, are probably kaput for good. We can deal with this debate later though. For now, Belgium, we pray and stand with you.