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EU parliament adopts tighter gun controls

Responding to a school massacre in Finland and other deadly shootings, European Union lawmakers yesterday overwhelmingly backed tighter gun control rules that make buying and possessing firearms more difficult across the 27-nation bloc.

Under the guidelines, updating rules from 1991, only people over 18 will be able to buy and keep guns, with the exception of firearms for hunting and target shooting under the guidance of an adult. EU member states will be required to keep computer files with data on each firearm, such as type, model, caliber, serial number and names and addresses of both the supplier and the buyer, including on guns bought through the Internet. Data will have to be kept for at least 20 years. The name of manufacturer, place and year of fabrication and serial number will have to marked on every firearm. Individual collectors or historical collection of arms will be exempt from the new guidelines. The measures, which still need to be formally approved by EU governments, are expected to come into force by January, the parliament said. All EU member states will then have two years to adopt them.

The parliamentary vote took place less than a month after an 18-year-old student went on a rampage in a school in southern Finland, killing eight people. Although the legislation has been 18 months in the making, parliamentarians said they saw a pressing need to pass the new rules to prevent such massacres in the future. „A 100% risk-free environment can never be created. But we can try to prevent events such as those in Finland or Germany,” said Gisela Kallenbach, a German Green deputy charged with steering the legislation through the EU assembly. Germany has seen five tragic school shootings in the past seven years. British Labor deputy Arlene McCarthy said the assembly sought a ‘fast-track’ adoption of the rules following the Finnish killings.

The new rules bring the EU into line with a UN protocol on firearms and harmonize the different gun control measures across the bloc. In Finland, for example, 15-year-olds are allowed hunting rifle permits, and there are 1.6 million registered guns in a population of 5.3 million. In Britain, 17-year-olds may buy a shotgun if they have a gun certificate.

Day of Action
In Britain, hundreds of real and imitation firearms were seized during a nationwide „Day of Action” aimed at tackling violent crime among young people, the Home Office said yesterday. About 1,000 police officers carried out raids and checks in Manchester, London, Liverpool and Birmingham as part of a continuing operation called the Tackling Gangs Action Program. More than 1,300 real and imitation firearms were recovered and 118 people arrested during Wednesday’s operation. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: „Getting guns off our streets is a top priority for the government and the Day of Action sends a strong message to criminals and the community that weapons won’t be tolerated. The operation, which was coordinated with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Serious Organized Crime Agency, targeted the supply of guns. (people.com.cn)