RSS
Alphabetical index
This page is available in 5 languages

We are migrating the content of this website during the first semester of 2014 into the new EUR-Lex web-portal. We apologise if some content is out of date before the migration. We will publish all updates and corrections in the new version of the portal.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.


Firearms

This directive sets out certain minimum conditions for the circulation of civil firearms inside the European Union (EU) territory.

ACT

Council Directive 91/477/EEC of 18 June 1991 on the control of the acquisition and possession of weapons [See amending act(s)].

SUMMARY

The directive establishes four categories of firearms * by order of their level of danger, defined in Annex I to the directive.

The directive does not apply to commercial transfers of weapons and ammunition of war nor to the acquisition or possession of weapons and ammunition * by:

  • the armed forces, the police or the public authorities;
  • collectors and bodies concerned with the cultural and historical aspects of weapons and recognised as such by the European Union (EU) countries in which they are established.

The directive is without prejudice to the application of national provisions concerning the carrying of weapons, hunting or target shooting.

A European firearms pass is issued by the authorities of an EU country to any person lawfully entering into possession of and using a firearm. The pass must always be in the possession of the person using the firearm or firearms listed on it.

For identification and tracing purposes, each firearm and elementary package of ammunition must be marked upon manufacturing. To this end, EU countries may apply the provisions of the Convention of 1 July 1969 on Reciprocal Recognition of Proofmarks on Small Arms. A computerised data-filing system into which these firearms are to be registered must be set up by EU countries no later than 31 December 2014. The register is to be accessed by authorised authorities only. In addition, EU countries may set up a system that will regulate the activities of brokers *. Dealers * must keep a register for firearms they receive or dispose of throughout their period of activity.

Measures for control of the sale, acquisition and possession of these weapons are the responsibility of EU countries; however, such measures must fall within the scope of the provisions of this directive. The arrangements for the acquisition and possession of ammunition shall be the same as those for the possession of the firearm for which they are intended.

The acquisition and possession of a firearm may be permitted when a person:

  • has a good cause for the acquisition or possession;
  • is at least 18 years of age, although an exception to this rule exists with regard to firearms for hunting and target shooting;
  • does not present a danger to him-/herself or the public.

EU countries must, in particular, control the acquisition of firearms, parts of firearms and ammunition when it is done via distance communication, such as through the Internet.

A person that meets the requirements for the acquisition and possession of any firearm may be given a multiannual licence. In such cases, any movements of the firearm must be communicated to the competent authorities, regular verifications must be carried out to evaluate whether the person continues to meet the requirements and the maximum time limits specified by national law must be respected.

To control the movement of firearms within the EU, the directive lays down procedures for the:

  • definitive transfers of weapons from one EU country to another;
  • temporary transfers of weapons (journeys) through two or more EU countries.

These formalities apply to all firearms, excluding weapons of war.

The Commission will establish a contact group by 28 July 2009 for EU countries to regularly exchange information. They are to communicate the names of their national authorities responsible for the information exchanges to each other and the Commission.

The directive does not affect the right of EU countries to take measures to prevent illegal trade in weapons.

EU countries are to intensify controls on the possession of weapons at the external border of the Union.

The Commission will present a report on the application of this directive to the European Parliament and the Council by the end of July 2015.

Background

Directive 91/477/EEC was adopted in the context of the completion of the Internal Market. The free circulation of some specific goods, such as firearms, had nevertheless to be accompanied by precautionary measures enshrined in the directive. The need to revise this directive partly arose from the international commitments of the Union, namely from the signing of the United Nations Protocol on the fight against illicit manufacturing and trafficking of firearms, part of the Convention against transnational organised crime.

Key terms used in the act
  • Firearm: any portable barrelled weapon that expels, is designed to expel or may be converted to expel a shot, bullet or projectile by the action of a combustible propellant.
  • Ammunition: the complete round or the components of thereof, including cartridge cases, primers, propellant powder, bullets or projectiles, that are used in a firearm.
  • Broker: any natural or legal person, other than a dealer, whose trade or business consists wholly or partly in the buying, selling or arranging the transfer of weapons.
  • Dealer: any natural or legal person whose trade or business consists wholly or partly in the manufacture, trade, exchange, hiring out, repair or conversion of firearms, parts and ammunition.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 91/477/EEC

8.7.1991

1.1.1993

OJ L 256 of 13.9.1991

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 2008/51/EC

28.7.2008

28.7.2010

OJ L 179 of 8.7.2008

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 91/477/EEC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference purposes only.

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 27 July 2010 – The placing on the market of replica firearms [COM(2010) 404 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
Directive 91/477/EEC only applies to products that are firearms or have the appearance of a firearm and can be converted to expel a shot, bullet or projectile by the action of a combustible propellant. It does not cover replica firearms.
There are great differences in EU countries’ definitions of replicas; objects defined as such vary in nature, complexity and level of danger. They range from objects that merely resemble a firearm to exact copies of one. At the same time, there are several other products that resemble firearms, but that are not usually classified as replicas. These include imitations of firearms used in leisure or hobby activities (airsoft, paintball), pellet guns, stun guns and distress/signal guns.
In July 2009, the Commission sent a questionnaire to all EU countries to gain a better understanding of the issue of replica firearms. The topics covered security/policing aspects, legislative and regulatory aspects, economic aspects and aspects related to the conversion of replicas. Based on this questionnaire, EU countries might be divided into three categories:

  • countries where legislation does not cover the concept of replica firearms and where there are no public order problems due to the use of replicas;
  • countries where legislation covers the concept of replica firearms, but where there are no significant public order problems due to the use of replicas;
  • countries where legislation covers the concept of replica firearms and where there are concerns regarding the conversion of replicas and their distribution on the market.

Security concerns, when expressed, are connected to the illicit conversion of alarm guns into real firearms or to the occasional utilisation of realistic imitations of firearms to commit an offence. However, Regulation (EC) No 764/2008 on national technical rules and Directive 2001/95/EC on product safety can already apply to replicas. For all these reasons, inclusion of replicas into the scope of application of Directive 91/477/EEC appears to be neither possible nor advisable.

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 15 December 2000 on the implementation of Council Directive 91/477/EEC, of 18 June 1991, on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons [COM(2000) 837 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 02.11.2010

See also

  • The European Commission Directorate-General Enterprise and Industry website on Directive 91/447/EEC
Legal notice | About this site | Search | Contact | Top