If we observe carefully the European gun control debate in politics and in the mainstream media, we see an odd but regular ritual. Let’s imagine a numerical axis. Those in favor of stricter gun laws make usually a first move and try to draw the issue of gun ownership from the neutral point deep into the negative end of the scale, suggesting that guns are extremely dangerous and should generally be banned.
As a reaction the gun owners wake suddenly up, and counter those accusations by trying to prove that guns are not that dangerous itself. They try to draw the discussion back towards the neutral point. The problem with this defensive method is that the game takes place all the time on the negative half of the playing field. There is never a chance to emphasize the positive aspects of private gun ownership, although there are many of them. As far as we consider the national level of politics, things are relatively simple.
The local gun lobby organizations deal with local anti-gun groups and politicians, they know. They can favor one political party over the other and maintain some lobbying job in the capitol. Sometimes the representatives of the lobbying organizations “win” by mainly not having to give up much and sometimes they clearly lose with the effect of new stricter regulations. That doesn’t sound like a winning strategy in the first place, does it?
As the Swedish EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström started to push for more gun control measures, by issuing the Firearms in the European Union Report in October 2013, the situation got really serious. The EU Commission is a body of currently 28 members. To most Europeans those people are not even known from the TV screen, but they are equipped with power to change their lives forever.
As for now, the Commission has a monopoly of legislative initiative. Only the Commission can make formal proposals for legislation. The EU Council and EU Parliament are able to request legislation; in most cases the EU Commission initiates the basis of these proposals. The Council and Parliament may request the Commission to draft legislation on some issue, though the Commission does have the power to refuse to do so. Once legislation is passed by the Council and Parliament, it is the Commission’s responsibility to ensure it is implemented in all member states. At this point not much can legally be done on national level.
The trick is that if a national government doesn’t want to deal with some particular issue, because it expects a lot of political resistance, it will delegate it simply to the EU Commission. The Commission comes up with a new law, and the national government is formally forced to implement it, without having to bear any political costs. This is obviously a huge deficit in European democracy in general, but it is a state of affairs today!
The Commission had the power to ban light bulbs in 2008 in every EU member state. There is no doubt that it has also the power to ban the private possession of guns completely. The question is only, are we going to let them do that? The sport shooting and hunting federations and other gun related organizations use to fight against further tightening of the gun laws, no matter how tight they already are.
“We’ve got already the strictest gun laws in the world, so what do they want from us?” is the most popular sentence in those circles. The federations complain today about a lack of energy and enthusiasm by their members in the struggle to keep the few rights the government was gracious enough, not to take away from them yet.
In my option the main problem lies in the lack of an ambitious goal. It is hard to lead people in a long lasting political battle over hobbies. At some point in time people get tired and desperate. On the other hand history teaches us that people are willing to fight for decades or even generations for their freedom. People tend usually to strive for individual freedom like they instinctively strive for water, food, housing and clothes.
Against the background of the EU powers and arising new threats to our freedom, I suggest a shift in strategy that starts with planting a new flag. The European gun rights are the result of an old medieval tradition. Back in the dark ages only the aristocracy and chivalry were granted the possession of arms. A generous Ruler would conceivably allow the peasantry to own some arms for hunting or even to some extend for self-defense. But the same Ruler could forbid the ownership of arms on his territory if he pleased to do so. The entire European gun laws base on the principle of a privilege instead on the base of a civil rights.
That changed for the first time in 1791, as the US Bill of Rights was ratified. From this time on, there was an inalienable right of the people to keep and bear arms in the United States. Are Europeans some kind of inferior human beings that don’t deserve this right? Well, I don’t think so! There are Ten Commandments in the church. There are ten Amendments in the US Bill of Rights. Therefore I suggest a draft of a Pan-European Gun Law that consists of ten articles.
The first article states the inalienable right of the people to keep and bear firearms. This document should be short and get straight to the point, without a possibility of any misinterpretation.
Of course we need some basic sensible precautions e.g. age limitations, mentally stable, free of criminal record and a resident of the European Union for some years. Persons who want to carry a gun for self-protection should attest a proper gun handling and legal course. But other than that, the right of the people to keep and bear firearms shall not be infringed. Now this is an ambitious goal for which we can sacrifice our time and put large amounts of energy into it!
Some people will argue that there are virtually no chances for such a bold proposal to ever pass European legislation. Well, to be honest I’m quite skeptical too that the EU Commission is going to be excited about this idea at the first glance. But that does not really matter very much. There are many ways for EU citizens to get involved into the legislative process. With the Lissabon Treaty the EU residents have the right to a Citizens’ Initiative. There is also the possibility to petition the European Parliament, taking part in public consultations or lodging a complaint with the European Ombudsman.
For details please see the EU document “A new right for EU citizens, You can set the agenda!, Guide to the European Citizens’ Initiative” published by the European Commission in 2011. Whatever way we decide to go, the EU agents must give an answer to the question, why they deny the right of the people to keep and bear firearms. This is the starting point for a full-scale discussion over the civil rights guaranties in the EU.
There are loads of modern scientific research stating that legal gun ownership does not increase criminality. There are even researches and practical experiences from all over the world proving that legal gun ownership might under some circumstances even lower criminality. The science is already on our side.
Our opponents have nothing to offer, except of the windy opinions of some Non-Governmental Gun Control Organizations. If we are all in, we can defeat them! If we know exactly what rights we are fighting for, we will eventually win!