Hello, I've just found this thread and although it's a couple of weeks old I'd like to comment.
First of all, thank you very much, Aussie, for the comprehensive description of the gun law in your country. It looks similar to the situation in some European countries. I knew about your caliber and magazine capacity restrictions .38/9mm and 10 rounds respectively) because I read somewhere that your IPSC shooters are now "handicapped" in international competitions.
Some months ago, after buying a PP and a PPK, I posted in the Walther forum some information about the situation in Europe and more specifically in Belgium. Considering that I own four S&W revolvers (2 inches 36, 3 inches 36, 4 inches 15 and 4 inches 19) I think I can reproduce that text here, with only some minor editing and a few addition. I understand that some readers will consider that European gun owners, including myself, are far too soft but before making harsh comments please bear in mind that the political situation in this continent is hardly comparable to the one in the US.
The European Union (EU) is a political structure similar to a federal government. EU laws on firearms are reasonable, at least in the political context of this part of the world. In a nutshell, under the relevant EU Directive (a Directive being probably similar to a US Federal Law), EU countries must ensure that a permit is required for the majority of handguns and semiautomatic long arms and must at least register other modern firearms (mainly non-semiautomatic rifles and shotguns). EU countries may, however, introduce more restrictive legislation, which is often the case, for instance by requiring a permit for all firearms or banning a certain types. The EU Directive does not lay down rules concerning carrying. It however facilitates considerably trade in firearms between EU countries. It also provides for a useful document called European firearms pass that enables mainly hunters and sport-shooters to transport their firearms across national borders (the UK being a sad exception).
The Czech Republic is probably the only EU country with a “shall issue” policy for concealed carry permits. The most common situation in the other countries is either a blanket ban on carrying or a very restrictive policy.
Until 2006, gun laws in Belgium were quite liberal, some people owned handguns just for home protection and it was difficult but not impossible to obtain a carry permit. In 2006, in the aftermath of a hideous racist murder committed with a legally-acquired rifle, a new firearms Act was passed. Under the new legislation, self-defense is still, at least in theory, a valid ground to own firearms but the authorities make a very narrow interpretation of the law and in fact I don’t know anybody who uses that ground when applying for a license. Some of the cops in my shooting club carry when they are off duty but they need to obtain a prior authorization from their superiors. Most law-abiding people over here use sport shooting, hunting and/or collecting as valid reasons to acquire firearms. As you can imagine, criminals don’t care much about the law. The general situation for legal gun owners in Belgium is still better than in other countries. For instance, there is no limitation here on the number of firearms that can be owned, although once you go beyond thirty the storage conditions are very strict.
I understand that some Americans think that even Czech laws are too restrictive but in my opinion there’s some misleading information in the US about the situation in Europe. We have, of course, many more restrictions (mostly unnecessary and ineffective) than you do in the US and I’ll always fight them but, contrary to what I sometimes read in US forums and gun magazines, the average country here is not like the UK, which, by the way, is the exception, not the norm in Europe. In many Western/Central European countries, law-abiding citizens can have a wide range of firearms (including handguns) for sport-shooting, hunting and collecting purposes and, in some exceptional cases, for self-defense. The red tape involved, like joining a shooting club or passing a hunting exam, can be a deterrent for some people but I think the majority of the readers of this forum would go through it to be able to buy and use firearms. I’m definitely not praising the European gun laws – I’m just trying to give some information.
I wish we had something like the 2nd amendment in Europe. Here politicians can change firearms legislation without consideration for any constitutional right.