The head of the Countryside Alliance has warned farmers they could soon face tougher restrictions on the legal ownership of firearms.
The European Commission has put forward proposals to completely rewrite the EU Firearms Directive by 2015.
Countryside Alliance executive chairman Barney White-Spunner (pictured) said there was an “overwhelming need” among politicians in the European Union to “be seen to be doing something” to crack down on gun crime and law-abiding gun owners were the “easy target”.
In a letter sent to alliance members, Mr White-Spunner warned the EU commissioner for home affairs, Swedish politician Cecilia Malmström, is seeking to toughen up gun laws for law-abiding firearms owners, including farmers.
“You may not know, or even think you care, who Cecilia Malmström is, but I am afraid she is about to become a part of your life if you hold a firearms licence,” he writes.
“Ms Malmström is the EU commissioner for rural affairs and the issue of firearms licensing is firmly on her agenda for 2014.”
When Ms Malmström launched her proposals for firearms in a commission paper last October, Mr White-Spunner said she focused on incidents where legally-held firearms were used which led to multiple deaths, such as the 12 people killed and 11 injured by taxi driver Derrick Bird in Cumbria in 2010.
“She then referred to 10,000 people killed by firearms in the EU between 2000 and 2010, but made no attempt to define what proportion of those people were killed with legally-held firearms and what proportion with illegal firearms,” he added.
“If the rest of Europe is anything like the UK you can be certain the vast majority of gun crime relates to illegally-held weapons, yet the commissioner referred only to incidents where legally held guns had been misused and conflated deaths caused by legally- and illegally-held firearms.”
Firearms laws in the UK are acknowledged as being amongst the toughest in the world.
According to United Nations statistics, the UK figure for accidental firearms fatalities is one of the lowest at 0.02 per 100,000, a figure which includes military and police fatalities.
“Being able to use a firearm for sport and pest control is a very important part of farming and country life and while we believe the EU is right to be concerned about gun crime, we do not believe legally-held guns are the problem,” said Mr White-Spunner.
“British gun users understand that ownership is a responsibility, not a right. When incidents happen that involve legally-held guns they are not caused by weak law, but by a failure to enforce it.
“We do not believe responsible gun keepers should be penalised for the inefficiencies of those policing the system.”