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On March 14, the European Union completed one of the final steps in imposing stringent new gun controls across the political bloc, when the European Parliament approved legislation to alter the EU Firearms Directive by a vote of 491 to 178. The Firearms Directive was last amended in 2008. Passage comes after a deal to significantly alter the European Commission’s initial proposal was struck last December between the European Parliament and European Council. The legislation is now set to be approved by the European Council.

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, the European Union expedited plans to overhaul the Firearms Directive, which sets forth the minimum threshold of gun control that each Member State must enact. Issued November 18, 2015, the draft proposal from the European Commission contained a number of onerous restrictions, most notably a vague ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms.

The initial draft was met with harsh criticism in countries with strong traditions of civilian gun ownership and participation in the shooting sports, such as the Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland. Switzerland and Finland also held concerns that the proposal would impede their national defense, as it could have curtailed the ability of their reservists to train with and possess firearms.

After much negotiation, on December 20, 2016 the European Parliament and European Council announced that they had reached an agreement on a heavily amended version of the European Commission’s proposal. It was this amended version of the legislation that Members of the European Parliament passed this week. It is expected that the European Council will approve of this legislation without significant delay.

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