ECO firearms guidance note

1. Introduction

This guidance is provided to help direct exporters to the appropriate legislation when exporting firearms and their parts, components, accessories or ammunition and related software and technology, to either the EU Member States or to non-EU countries.

The key domestic legislation which governs the export of firearms is the Export Control Order 2008 (‘the Order’). Council Regulation (EU) 258/2012 (‘the Regulation’) is directly applicable and as such has the force of law within the UK.

In 2018 amendments were made to the firearms controls in the UK Dual-Use List in Schedule 3 of the Export Control Order 2008. The purpose of these amendments was to address the changes laid out in Directive (EU) 2017/853 to Directive 91/477/EEC on the control of the acquisition and possession of weapons within the EU. At the same time the control lists were also restructured to better align with various European and international obligations on firearms, in particular the EU Common Military List and to better differentiate between firearms to non-EU countries, covered by the Regulation, and those firearms that fall under the Export Control Order 2008.

Finally, this guidance sets out the sequence exporters should follow when assessing which legislation and controls apply to their exports.

2. Export Control Order 2008

With regards to firearms, Schedule 2 of the Export Control Order 2008 describes in entries ML1 and ML2 those considered to be military, this includes rifled weapons intended for sporting purposes. ML1 and ML2 also includes specially designed components and accessories for weapons specified in these entries. Ammunition associated with these firearms, and their specially designed components, are described in ML3. These entries closely replicate those in the Common Military List of the EU and originate as part of the Munitions List of the Wassenaar Arrangement.

ML1 describes smooth-bore firearms with a calibre of less than 20mm and all other firearms with a calibre of 12.7mm (0.5 inches) or less. This entry also includes all components specially designed for these firearms, with accessories listed in ML1d. ML1 also contains several ‘Notes’ that decontrol specific types of firearms, for example those that meet UK or EU deactivation standards, antiques of a certain age and air weapons.

ML2 also describes smooth-bore weapons, but in this case having a calibre of 20 mm or greater and all other firearms with a calibre greater than 12.7 mm. This entry also includes all components specially designed for these firearms, with accessories listed in ML2.c. and ML2.d. ML2 also contains a number of ‘Notes’ that decontrol specific types of firearms, for example those that meet UK or EU deactivation standards and antiques of a certain age.

ML3 describes ammunition for firearms described in ML1 and ML2. This entry also contains a note that decontrols specific ammunition, such as ammunition specially designed for signal pistols or bird scaring. ML3 also controls components specially designed for the ammunition described in ML3.

In the case of firearms or ammunition that have been decontrolled by the ‘Notes’ in ML1, 2 and 3, components specially designed for these are also decontrolled. For example, the stock or barrel specially designed for an air weapon is not a controlled item, as air weapons are specifically decontrolled by the ‘Notes’.

ML21 and ML22 control respectively software and technology in relation to firearms and ammunition specified in ML1, ML2 and ML3.

In Schedule 3 entries PL9010 and PL9011 describe firearms that are not specified in entries ML1 and ML2, along with their parts, essential components and ammunition and related software and technology for their development or production. These 2 entries apply to firearms and related items that are not described by, or have been specifically excluded from, the scope of Regulation (EU) 258/2012.

The key difference between entries PL9010 and PL9011 is the destination of the export, with PL9010 applying to destinations outside the EU and PL9011 applying to destinations inside the EU. However please note that the items described in these PL entries do differ slightly, such as additional controls in PL9011 for devices that can be converted from firing blanks and optional deactivation standards.

The Order provides for simplified procedures for the temporary export of firearms, ammunition or sights that form part of the personal effects of a person who are in possession of a European Firearms Pass.

3. Regulation (EU) 258/2012

The Regulation implements Article 10 of the United Nations Protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition.

The Regulation applies to transfers of firearms not specified in ML1 or ML2 and includes parts (including sound suppressors or moderators), components and ammunition, as described in Annex I. Defined terms in the Regulation only apply to the items described in the Regulation.

The Regulation only applies to exports to destinations outside the EU. The Regulation does not apply to exports destined for the armed forces, the police or the public authorities of the EU Member States.

The Regulation contains simplified procedures for the temporary export of firearms and related items by hunters and sports shooters, as part of their accompanied effects, provided the requirements in Article 9 have been met.

The Regulation does not apply to software or technology relating to the development or production of firearms. Exports of software and technology should be considered against the relevant entries in PL9010 and PL9011 in Schedule 3 of the Order.

An important requirement when exporting firearms and related items under the Regulation is to ensure the importing non-EU country has authorised the relevant import. The UK licensing authority will not grant a licence under the provisions of the Regulation without evidence of the import authorisation from the importing non-EU country. Where goods are transiting non-EU countries written notice will be required as evidence of countries having no objections, unless the shipment is by sea or air and there is no transhipment or change of means of transport or in the case of temporary exports.

The export of firearms, related equipment and ammunition not specified in Schedule 2 in the Order is governed by the Regulation. Recital no 8 of the Regulation makes it clear that the Regulation should not apply to firearms, their parts and essential components or ammunition that are intended specifically for military purposes.

To determine what is intended specifically for military purposes, we look to the Common Position 2008/944/CFSP which defines common rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment. This references the Common Military List which contains a list of products and technologies subject to the application of the Common Position. Items on the Common Military List are therefore considered as being intended specifically for military purposes. (Items on the Common Military List are included within Schedule 2 ML entries.)

Noting this, the following guidance describes the process to consider when classifying firearms, their parts and components and ammunition and related software and technology.

With regards to the parts and components these will be classified in the same entries as the firearms they are specially designed for.

It is important during any assessment against the Order or the Regulation to refer to the correct definitions appearing in the same legislation, as they may differ between them.

5. The Order

The first entries to consider when assessing firearms are ML1 and ML2 in Schedule 2 of the Order. Smoothbore firearms with a calibre of less than 20mm or other firearms with calibre of 12.7 mm (0.5 inches) or less are described in ML1, all other firearms with larger calibres are considered against the entries in ML2.

Where firearms are described by the sub-entries in ML1 or ML2 the ‘Notes’ in the same sub-entry must then be taken into account. For example, a smooth bore shotgun with a calibre of 20mm or greater is described by entry ML2a but ‘Note d’ specifically decontrols those shotguns not specially designed for military use and not of the automatic firing type. Firearms described in entries ML1 and ML2 and not decontrolled by any of the ‘Notes’ are considered to be intended specifically for military purposes and specified in Schedule 2 of the Order.

An issued licence will provide a control list classification to reflect the entries in the Order, for example ML1a or ML2b.

Defined terms in the Order apply and are set out at Part 1, Section 2 and in the Schedules. In the first instance the defined terms in the schedules apply.

6. The Regulation

In cases where firearms do not meet the descriptions in ML1 and ML2, or they are specifically decontrolled by the associated ‘Notes’, and provided the destination of the export is not an EU Member State, then the firearms must be assessed against the descriptions in Annex I in the Regulation. Note that Annex I includes a footnote as follows: ‘When an ‘ex’ code is indicated, the scope is to be determined by application of the CN code and corresponding description taken together’.

If the firearms, parts and components are described in Annex I then the Articles of the Regulation should be considered to ensure the Regulation applies to the conditions of the export. For example, although a particular firearm is described in Annex I the Regulation may not apply if, for example, the export is to an antiques collector as described in Article 3.1(d).

In the case of software and technology in relation to the development or production of firearms and ammunition this should be assessed against PL9010 in Schedule 3 or the Order.

The licence authorisation will provide a control list classification to reflect the entries in the Regulation, for example ‘FR AI’.

Defined terms in the Regulation apply.

7. PL9010

In most cases firearms not specified by in ML1 or ML2, being exported to non-EU Member States will be exported under the provisions of the Regulation. However, in a very small number of cases the Regulation may not apply, for example when firearms are destined for the armed forces, the police, or the public authorities of the EU Member States and PL9010 in Schedule 3 of the Order is the next entry to consider. If the firearms are not described in PL9010 or specifically decontrolled by the relevant ‘Notes’ in the same entry, then no licence will be required (NLR). The NLR assessment will also apply to any parts and components specially designed for a firearm assessed as NLR.

PL9010 must be considered for software and technology relating to firearms and ammunition if the software or technology is being exported to a destination outside the EU, irrespective of the end-users.

Defined terms in the Order apply and are set out at Part 1, Section 2 and in Schedule 3. In the first instance the defined terms in schedule 3 apply.

8. PL9011

In cases where firearms do not meet the descriptions in ML1 and ML2, or they are specifically decontrolled by the ‘Notes’ in ML1 and ML2 and provided the destination of the export is an EU Member State, then the firearms must be assessed against entry PL9011 in Schedule 3 of the Order.

If the firearms are not described in PL9011, or specifically decontrolled by the relevant ‘Notes’ in the same entry, then no licence will be required (NLR). The NLR assessment will also apply to any parts and components specially designed for a firearm assessed as NLR.

PL9011 must also be considered for software and technology relating to firearms and ammunition if the software or technology is being exported to a destination inside the EU.

An important requirement when exporting firearms and related items to the EU under the Order is to ensure the importing country has authorised the relevant import. The UK licensing authority will not grant a licence without evidence of the import authorisation from the importing country.

Defined terms in the Order apply and are set out at Part 1, Section 2 and in Schedule 3. In the first instance the defined terms in Schedule 3 apply.

9. Ammunition

Ammunition that can be used with firearms specified in ML1 or ML2 will be specified in ML3 and the provisions of the Order will apply. Ammunition that cannot be used with firearms specified in ML1 or ML2, and destined for non-EU Member States, will be assessed against the descriptions in Annex I in the Regulation. As for firearms, if the ammunition is destined for the armed forces, police or public authority of an EU Member State then the ammunition will be assessed in PL9010.c. Ammunition that cannot be used with firearms specified in ML1 or ML2, and destined for EU Member States, will be assessed against the entry PL9011.c.

10. Software and Technology

Software and technology relating to firearms and ammunition in entries ML1, ML2, ML3 will be controlled by ML20 & ML21 in the Order.

Software and technology to non-EU countries is not described in Annex I to the Regulation. Therefore, as the Regulation doesn’t apply this should be assessed against entries PL9010.d. or PL9010.e. of Schedule 3 of the Order.

Software and technology for export to EU should be assessed against entries PL9011.d. or PL9011.e. of Schedule 3 of the Order.

11. Example cases

A .243 hunting rifle to South Africa – As the calibre is less than 12.7mm then ML1.a. is considered. As it is not a rim fire weapon, antique weapon, reproduction of an antique weapon, nor an air/CO2 weapon it is not decontrolled by the ‘Notes’ to ML1, and thus specified by ML1a and requiring a licence under the provisions of the Order.

A .22 rim fire rifle to the US for stock – As the calibre is less than 12.7mm then ML1.a. is considered. As it is a rim fire weapon decontrol ‘Note c’ to ML1 applies. The Regulation is then considered as the export is not to an EU Member State. Unless the export falls within an exemption, the Regulation applies.

Single shot 12-gauge sporting shotgun to France – As calibre is less than 20 mm then ML1.b. is considered. In the case of smoothbore firearms ML1.b. describes those that are specially designed for military use or fully automatic. As single shot sporting shotguns are not described in this entry ML1.b. doesn’t apply. The Regulation will also not apply as the export is to an EU Member State. The next entries to consider are PL9011 and PL9010. The shotgun is controlled by PL9011a as the firearm is being exported to an EU Member State, it meets the definition of ‘firearms’ and is not decontrolled by the relevant ‘Notes’.

Pump-action 20-gauge sporting shotgun to Ireland – As calibre is less than 20 mm then ML1.b. is considered. Pump-action sporting shotguns are not described in ML1.b. as they are neither specially designed for military use or fully automatic and the Regulation doesn’t apply as the destination is an EU Member State, hence the next entries to consider are PL9010 and Pl9011. The pump-action sporting shotgun is controlled by PL9011a as the firearm is being exported to an EU Member State, it meets the definition of ‘firearms’ and is not decontrolled by the relevant ‘Notes’.

Single shot 20-gauge sporting shotgun to UAE for stockist – As calibre is less than 20 mm then ML1.b. is considered. In the case of smoothbore firearms ML1.b. describes those that are specially designed for military use or fully automatic type. As single shot sporting shotguns are not described in this entry ML1.b. doesn’t apply. The Regulation is then considered as the export is not to an EU Member State. As the export doesn’t appear to meet any exemptions the Regulation applies.

Company A exporting a Semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun to Police Force in Malaysia – As calibre of the firearm is less than 20 mm, ML1.b. is considered. Semi-automatic shotguns are not described in ML1.b. as they are neither specially designed for military use or fully automatic. The Regulation is then considered as the export is not to an EU Member State. As the export doesn’t appear to meet any exemptions the Regulation applies. The export is not to the Police Force of an EU Member State, hence the Regulation will still apply in this case.

1800 Brown Bess India muzzleloader to Finland – As calibre is less than 20 mm then ML1.b. is considered. However, ‘Note a’ excludes firearms manufactured in 1800. The Regulation will not apply as the export is to an EU Member State. ‘Note 1’ of PL9011 excludes firearms manufactured before 1890 and hence this entry also does not apply. As neither the Order or the Regulation controls these firearms manufactured in 1800 it does not require an export licence (NLR).

Deactivated 5.56 mm assault rifle to Holland – As calibre is less than 12.7 mm then ML1.a. is considered. ML1 ‘Notes d and e’ decontrol deactivated firearms and as Holland is an EU Member State then Regulation (EU) 2015/2403 (‘the Deactivation Regulation’) is relevant. Provided the rifle meets the deactivation and marking conditions as specified in the Deactivation Regulation, the deactivated rifle is not specified in ML1. The Regulation will not apply as the destination is an EU Member State. PL9011 will not apply as ‘Note 3’ also decontrols firearms meeting the technical specifications set out in the ‘Deactivation Regulation’. The export of the deactivated assault rifle therefore does not require an export licence (NLR).

Deactivated 5.56 mm assault rifle to Sweden that has been certified in accordance with Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 – as calibre is less than 12.7 mm then ML1.a. is considered. ML1 ‘Notes d and e’ decontrols deactivated firearms and as Sweden is an EU Member State then the appropriate legislation is the Deactivation Regulation. As the firearm has not been deactivated according the technical specifications set out in the Deactivation Regulation then entry ML1.a. will still apply and a licence will be required under the provisions of the Order.

Pump-action 8-gauge sporting shotgun to Lithuania – as calibre is greater than 20 mm then ML2.a. is considered. Pump-action shotguns are not described in ML2.a. as ‘Note d’ specifically excludes shotguns that are neither specially designed for military use or fully automatic and the Regulation doesn’t apply as the destination is an EU Member State, hence the next entries to consider are PL9010 and PL9011. The pump-action shotgun is controlled by PL9011.a. as the firearm is being exported to an EU Member State, it meets the definition of ‘firearms’ and is not decontrolled by the relevant ‘Notes’.

380 starter pistol to South Africa – As calibre is less than 12.7 mm then ML1.b. is considered. Signal pistols are specifically decontrolled by ‘Note d’. The Regulation and PL9010 do not apply as starter pistols do not meet the either definition of firearms. It therefore does not require an export licence (NLR).

Ammunition for a 12 gauge shotgun – as the ammunition’s gauge can be used in military and fully automatic shotguns described by ML1b it is considered controlled by ML3a and requiring a licence under the provisions of the Order.

 

A .300 rifle designed to fire blanks to be exported to Spain – the rifle is of the calibre specified by ML1.a. but decontrol ‘Note a’ of ML1 applies as it is designed to fire blanks. As the destination is in the EU PL9011 needs to be considered. If rifle can be converted to fire live ammunition, then it would be specified by PL9011.f. under the provisions of the Order.

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