BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union plans to tighten rules governing the issue and use of guns, EU officials said after interior ministers were summoned to a crisis meeting in Brussels following the deadly attacks by armed militants in Paris.
Ministers, who will meet on Friday, will try to push through quickly rules aimed at making it more difficult to acquire weapons and to track them better - possibly marking firearms with serial numbers - and do more to ensure that guns de-activated for sale as collectors items cannot be fired again.
Firearms can be de-activated so that they can no longer be used for lethal action. But loopholes and different national legislation among EU members can be exploited allowing for weapons, though to be out of use, to be re-activated.
This is particularly pressing because of evidence that the January attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo was carried out with Kalashnikov rifles that had previously been decommissioned for legal sale, EU officials say.
The European Commission, the EU executive, has been working since 2013 on new rules for common minimum standards across the EU on deactivation of weapons, and on a review of existing legislation on firearms to “reduce the legal uncertainty caused by national divergences”, an EU official said.
“Work on this is now being significantly accelerated,” a Commission spokeswoman told a news briefing on Monday.
As weapons can be brought into Europe from neighbouring countries, ministers on Friday will address ways of strengthening checks at the external borders of the passport-free Schengen area, which includes most EU nations.
Schengen’s practice of open borders is already under strain from the chaotic flow of migrants from the Middle East.
EU countries also plan to speed up talks to reach an agreement on sharing travellers’ data that has been long opposed by EU lawmakers on the grounds it would infringe people’s privacy.
EU negotiators will meet on Tuesday to break a stalemate between national governments and the European Parliament on the issue, but it is unclear whether there will be progress.
Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Richard Balmforth