Citation(s) from the literature library

Buchanan, Cate, Mireille Widmer et al. 2007 ‘National Regulation of Small Arms.’ Missing Pieces: A Guide for Reducing Gun Violence Through Parliamentary Action, pp. 22-23. Geneva: Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. 1 January

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Hate Crime Spurs Belgian Parliament to Modernise National Gun Laws

Reform of the previous regulatory system had been in the works since 2002 but stalled due to staunch opposition in some quarters. When in May 2006 a teenager bought a hunting rifle from an Antwerp gun store and -- motivated by racism -- used it the same day to kill an African nurse and the baby in her care, the legislation was quickly revived, revised and passed into law. It raises the threshold for owner licensing, improves the marking and registration of weapons, introduces tighter regulations of gun dealers, and raises penalties for breaking the law.

Under the new law, prospective gun owners must first obtain a license, requiring a three-month practical and theoretical procedure, including police screening and a physical and mental health check. The applicant must also prove familiarity with the law and with safe gun handling standards. Spousal approval will be sought before delivering a licence. The license is valid for five years and must be renewed.

Importantly, each applicant must now show a "legitimate use", which, in addition to hunting and sports shooting, can include job-related duties, protection in the case of individuals who can show proven risks, historical collecting, or cultural activities.

Gun carrying is generally authorised for three years with the option of renewal, and the reasons given to justify the licence will be verified regularly, including at the time of renewing the licence.

The new law establishes improved marking and tracing measures, in line with the UN Firearms Protocol (which Belgium ratified in September 2004) and the 2005 UN instrument on marking and tracing. Now, all weapons made or imported into Belgium will be marked with a unique identification number and registered in the Central Register of Arms.

Currently only 800,000 of an estimated 2,000,000 weapons in circulation in Belgium are registered -- and many of them improperly or incompletely.

The new law carries new obligations for gun dealers, who must prove their professional competence and account for the origin of their income, as a way to avoid money laundering or illicit trade.

Licenses to sell arms are granted for seven years after which it must be renewed. Finally, breaking the new laws can lead to up to five years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to EUR 25,000. …

The new legislation does not address the marking and tracing of ammunition, controls on the manufacture or conversion of weapons.

ID: Q4984

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