European Union

Dutch government under fire for plan to ask race and religion of gun licence applicants

Plan has been criticised by privacy groups, but proponents says it’s needed following a string of attacks blamed on Islamic extremists across Europe

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 8:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 10:52pm

The Dutch government is facing a storm of protest over plans to register the race and religion of people applying for gun licences.

The requirements, contained in a bill set to be introduced in the lower house of the Dutch parliament next month, would also require the state to compile information on an applicant’s political and philosophical views.

The changes are being made to comply with a tightened European directive on the possession of weapons, after a series of attacks blamed on Islamic extremists across the continent in recent years.

But critics, including privacy campaigners and members of two of the parties in the Dutch coalition government – the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and D66 – say the cabinet, which proposed the legislation, has gone beyond the EU’s requirements.

Monica den Boer, an MP for the liberal D66 party, told the Dutch daily newspaper De Volkskrant: “We must not exceed this privacy limit. According to the minimum requirements of the European directive, it is also not necessary at all. We do not promote discrimination and ethnic profiling, so these special personal details have to be removed from the bill.”

Chris van Dam, a CDA MP, told the paper: “I cannot imagine a situation that justifies this being included in the law.”

The ministers pushing the legislation say collection of the information is necessary as “risk factors for weapon possession are diverse” and the police need information from various sources to weigh up whether it is safe to allow someone to hold a weapon.

The objective of the European directive, which should have been translated into domestic law on September 15, is to improve the traceability of guns in the EU and to improve the automated exchange of data.

The European Commission proposed reform of the firearms directive in November 2015 following the attacks in Paris.

Under the draft legislation due to be presented to the Dutch parliament, those who want to join a shooting club must first submit a declaration on behaviour. To shoot with their own weapon they will then have to apply for a permit from a local police chief, and provide a range of information that will be held by the authorities for 30 years.

The Dutch Personal Data Protection Authority said it could see no justification for the requirements. Dutch police provide about 70,000 licences a year for more than 200,000 guns.