A new royal decree requires the Proof house – the institution officially in charge of destroying or neutralizing weapons – to demand evidence from owners to prevent arms that are illegal, stolen or used in crimes from disappearing legally, Justice Minister Koen Geens disclosed on Wednesday.
The Proof house had already raised the problem, suspecting that abuses were being committed. Since then it had required anyone submitting weapons to it to show a permit or authorization to bear arms.
However, only the status of the person concerned could be checked in that way and, moreover, (s)he had to be a Belgian national.
“That obligation offers no guarantee that the weapon was legally owned or that it was not used to commit an offense,” Minister Geens said in a press release. “If a weapon that is being sought is destroyed, critical evidence is lost. If the weapon is neutralized, the individual can then take it back home.”
The royal decree, which has been submitted to the Council of State for its opinion, stipulates that any person, Belgian or foreigner, can only have a weapon destroyed or neutralized if (s)he has a certificate from the local police confirming that the weapon is legally owned and is not listed in a police database.
In 2016, a total of 11,542 weapons were destroyed and 1,019 neutralized, according to the minister.