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EU body embraces gun control

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International Herald Tribune / November 30, 2007

BRUSSELS - Against the backdrop of deadly school shootings in Finland and Germany, European Union legislators overwhelmingly backed tough new gun control rules yesterday, saying they hope the change will prevent Europe from becoming a gun-friendly culture like the United States.

Under the new rules, hammered out in 18 months of negotiations between the European Parliament, national governments, and gun advocates, individuals age 18 and over will be able to buy and own a firearm, provided they are not deemed a threat to public safety. Individuals under 18 will be able to obtain a gun for hunting or target shooting only under the supervision of a licensed adult.

To plug holes in the current system, in which the registration of guns is not consistent across the 27-member bloc, each member state will be obliged to set up a computerized database of firearms, including details about their model, caliber, serial number, and the names and addresses of both the seller and the buyer. The data must be kept by authorities for at least 20 years.

European legislators of all political stripes said the new rules were essential to prevent Europe from embracing the gun culture of the United States.

"All European cows are registered Europe-wide, so why not guns, if it can save lives? Civil liberties can be sacrificed if we can prevent people from being killed," said Gisela Kallenbach, a German who helped draft the proposal.

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