New registration system for France’s five million gun owners

Owners will need to register on a new IT system. The change is aimed at simplifying the process and improving security

14 January 2022
A silhouette of a man holding a shooting rifle, against a sunset background

Most of the five million people who own a gun in France are hunters Pic: Billion Photos / Shutterstock

By Hannah Thompson

The process for declaring and keeping guns in France is set to change next month, with a new registration system designed to simplify regulations and improve checks on weapons.

Five million people in France currently hold a legal gun, of which four million are estimated to be hunters with 1.2 million actively using their firearms.

The number also includes arms professionals, including manufacturers, importers, gunsmiths and gun sellers; as well as sports shooting licensees, and athletes.

New IT system

Starting next month, people who currently hold firearms will need to register on the IT new system.

This is called the système d’information sur les armes (weapons computer system, SIA), a tool that weapons sellers have already been using since October 2020.

The system aims to simplify the application process for an arms licence. Once the person applying has created an account, they can then follow up on everything online, including presenting identification documents, and later registering the serial number of their weapon.

The system is opening progressively to different groups of gun owners:

  • From February 8 for hunters
         
  • From March to clay-pigeon shooters and biathletes
         
  • From April for unlicensed holders (eg. of guns that were inherited)
        
  • For other sports shooters from May 10
        
  • For collectors from June

Everyone will have to create an account on the new system by July 1, 2023 at the latest. Details of how to do this have not yet been clarified. 

Better security and more checks

The new system will also make it easier to track weapons and improve security. 

Jean-Simon Merandat, head of the central weapons and explosives department in France, told 20 Minutes: “It will be easier for us to geolocate weapons, which will allow us to strengthen the security of law enforcement interventions.”

The new software is also set to require weapons applicants to submit to more checks. 

There will now be checks and updates to the licences “at least once every year”, said Mr Merandat. Previously, licensees were only checked at the time of purchasing the weapon.

Now, their criminal record will be checked regularly, as well as their psychiatric history and police files. 

Weapon sellers will also have access to the information and will be able to tell – with a few clicks – whether they are legally able to sell a weapon to a given customer.

The new system is also designed to help protect against fraud and detect people who may try to buy weapons using fake documents, or documents belonging to someone else.

‘Obsolete and unreliable’

Since 2007, the 'Agrippa database' (Fichier Agrippa) has been the central register for managing legal firearm use in France.

But “this system has become obsolete and unreliable”, said Mr Merandat. He said: “There was a lot of supporting documentation that needed to be provided and it was all done on paper, which sometimes led to losses.”

Processing times for applications also vary considerably depending on the manufacturer, ranging from "a few weeks to two years," he added.

The new system is set to speed up processing and remove the risk of document loss.

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