La Tragedie…or Non-conformite?

The French Interior Ministry, on the basis that the country had as many as six million unregistered firearms in public hands, recently sought to get them surrendered. 

This gun “surplus” in the government’s eyes came due to several factors. A crossroads of large-scale military campaigns going back centuries– the first recorded European battle where cannons were used was at Crecy in Northern France in 1346– the country has seen most of the modern armies of the continent fight their way across its soil at one time or another, leaving lots of gear behind. Added to this was an extensive underground Resistance army that swelled to 400,000 freedom fighters equipped by Allied weapon drops during World War II, which saw many guns quietly squirreled away afterward, just in case. Finally, the country saw a vibrant and active shooting sports community that, in more recent years, has declined. 

Now, to get those “off-record” inherited or heirloom guns either recorded on the government’s books or destroyed, the French government held a nationwide “amnesty” for armes héritées et trouvées” or “legacy and found weapons.” The event, held from Nov. 25 through Dec. 2 at more than 300 locations, allowed individuals to bring in undeclared guns and either relinquish them or register them with the government, joining the growing list of 5 million firearms already documented. 

In other words, the event wasn’t aimed at getting guns out of the hands of criminals, but out of the average resident’s closet and garage. 

In all, only some 150,000 firearms and 4 million rounds of ammunition were abandoned while another 50,000 guns were registered, falling far short of the government’s estimate of six million, meaning that non-compliance among many off-book gun owners remains high.

Still, some of the guns turned in were amazing.

More in my column at

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