Cyprus faces an EU fine for failing to adopt an EU firearms directive after the Commission sent a warning over the delay in harmonising national law with a directive that should have been implemented long ago, MPs heard yesterday
However, the original bill was withdrawn by the Justice Ministry and the new one was tabled only on October 15.
It came before the House Legal Affairs Committee on Wednesday with MPs raising a number of queries and noting that some of the provisions of the bill have nothing to do with the EU directive and need further discussion.
A spokeswoman for the Legal Service called on members to vote on the directive and to delay a revision of additional provisions (they were added later), however, MPs want to examine all the articles one by one as they consider them extremely important.
Under the provisions of the bill, the acquisition and possession of weapons will be controlled to tackle the illegal possession and use of firearms by criminals.
Cyprus, following the European Commission’s warnings, must comply with the below-mentioned provisions:
– To improve the traceability of the firearms
– To ensure effective exchange of information between sellers and police, while stricter possession and transportation conditions should be adopted for more dangerous weapons.
Specifically, the bill regulates the acquisition and possession of weapons for private collections, as well as for hunting and shooting purposes, and issues related to firearm decommissioning, gun sellers’ activities, weapons marking to enhance their traceability, as well as creation of registries and data storage systems which will provide traceable connection between the firearms and their owners.
An effective exchange of information between the competent authorities of the EU Member States to be ensured and common rules to be adopted to prevent deletion of markings.
The bill amends the existing firearms law by transposing a new EU directive that establishes stricter controls aimed at improving the traceability of firearms and their main components and guidance for the efficient exchange of information between gun sellers and the police. It also established stricter possession criteria and conditions of storage and transportation.
Moreover, provision has been made to prohibit the issue of permits to acquire, possess or transfer any category of guns to individuals who have been exempted from fulfilling their military obligations or their service in the National Guard has been suspended for mental health reasons as well as persons who has been denied the right to possess or use a firearm by the parole board.
The bill also includes measures like removing firearms from people who display violent behaviour in the family.
Concerns about gaps
The House Legal Affairs Committee chairman Disy Member Giorgos Georgiou, said that this is an important bill that must be passed urgently since Cyprus has already received a warning from the European Commission. Georgiou noted that the Committee would complete examination of the bill on January 8.
Vice-president Demetris Demetriou, also of Disy, said MPs would not rush into wrapping up discussion under the pressure of being fined since the bill touched on sensitive issues. He also referred to the recent incident in Nicosia with a mentally unstable man who owned 12 firearms, and the fact that the father of Stylianos (the teenager who committed suicide last September) owned a gun.
A spokesman for the Game Service referred to the conflict between the bill and operation of shooting ranges in Cyprus, while a spokesman for the Shooting Federation called for the relaxation of rules for the export of weapons for competition purposes.
Gun sellers claimed that people with alcohol addiction should not be allowed to possess firearms. They also supported stricter conditions, with a penalty system that would lead to the loss of a permit.
Diko MP Christiana Erotokritou referred to the warning addressed to the Government on the inability of the Cypriot State to comply with European firearms legislation, while Edek MP Costas Efstathiou said that the bill on gun possession has many questions and gaps.
Greens MP Georgios Perdikis said it was a very important bill, but some of its provisions were not relevant to the directive.
According to the provisions of the bill, the police are allowed to tasers that are widely used by police overseas to disperse crowds when the safety of persons or property is in danger. At the same time, they provide the ability to immobilise the offender in order to arrest him without risking the life of policemen and members of the public.
On the issue of tasers, Akel MP Aristos Damianou questioned where the study on the subject requested by Parliament was. He said these weapons violate fundamental human rights since they actually harm people’s health. He also cited the case of an individual who has a gun licence and takes his gun to a gym in Larnaca. “I’m not a Texan,” he said characteristically, “I don’t want my country to become Texas.”