Conversion of blank-firing and alarm weapons: a look at the EU Response

24 March 2020

The European Union’s (EU) strategy to tackle arms trafficking and firearm-related crime took a new turn in 2017. EU Member States agreed to overhaul the decades-old Directive 91/477 which had established common rules on firearms detention and acquisition for civilians. As part of the package, they addressed a growing trend in arms trafficking across the continent: the illicit conversion of blank-firing and alarm weapons to lethal and live firing ones. This phenomenon had spread among various types of criminal users, with a potential to ultimately reach terrorist circles. For that reason, the new Directive has brought these alarm weapons into the scope of EU regulation on firearms to apply them the same controls. However, its implementation, almost three years in the making, has faced both opposition and delays from Member States which threaten to derail its action on arms trafficking.

Photo credit: Start of the Brussels 20 km race in 2017, given by Princess Astrid with a blank starting gun. The detonation caused minor injuries to Prime Minister Charles Michel (left), who suffered temporary deafness. Source: RTBF.