Take signal gun to Croatia: What skippers must pay attention to when crossing the border

Signal pistol / signal gun: what to consider limits
If you want to be legally correct, you should have your signal pistol checked at home to see if it is suitable for crossing the border.

Is it allowed to take a signal pistol, with which you can draw attention to yourself as a skipper in distress, to Croatia just like that? What is the legal situation in transit countries such as Austria, Italy or Slovenia? These are all questions that are probably of a theoretical nature for most yacht owners, because they transport them, usually well packed, in the trunk of their vehicle and hope not to be checked. The chances of not being caught are good, given the relaxed control behavior at the border crossings. But: The bad conscience drives along in many cases and who is caught then nevertheless once with the “weapon smuggling” of a signal pistol, which can threaten depending upon circumstances nevertheless sensitive punishments.

Signal pistols must comply with EU Directive

Here the error devil lies rather in the detail: If it is an older signal pistol that does not comply with the EU’s 2019/69 Enforcement Directive, it could well qualify as a weapon under national gun laws. Therefore, due to the complexity of the facts, it is not possible to give a generally valid opinion. Our tip: Simply show the weapon to a weapons expert at the locally competent police headquarters or to a competent member of the police administration and seek his advice when it comes to taking the signal pistol on your own yacht in the Adriatic region, especially to Croatia.

Seahelp asked about the signal pistol

Nevertheless, we wanted to know more and asked the authorities responsible for this matter. The Croatian National Tourist Board, the Croatian Ministry of the Interior, the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and the responsible General Directorate of Customs in Bonn/Germany provided their opinions, but they usually refer to weapons of the latest EU implementing directive. However, the national services can usually only comment on the legal national requirements.

General wording of the request:

A yacht owner owns a yacht, berth Croatia. He acquires in Germany a signal pistol prescribed as safety equipment, including ammunition, and intends to carry it to his yacht to Croatia, crossing the countries Austria, Italy, Slovenia before arriving in Croatia. How does he behave correctly in terms of customs and weapons law, so as not to commit any legal violations with the signal pistol?.

Signal pistols in Croatia

Answer from the Ministry of Interior (MUP) Croatia (translated from Croatian):.
“Weapons intended for warning, signaling, saving human life, humane killing of animals, harpooning or for commercial or technical purposes, provided that they can be used only for the aforementioned purposes, and slingshots and ornamental weapons (imitation weapons) shall also not be considered weapons within the meaning of this Act. (Official Gazette 94/18 and 42/20). In accordance with the foregoing, the import of signal items into the Republic of Croatia is not subject to a permit requirement for transfer across the state border, nor is it subject to a notification requirement to the border police.”

Signal pistols in Germany

Inquiry General Customs Directorate in Bonn, Communications Staff Office:

“Provided that the signal weapon (signal pistol) described by you and the associated ammunition:

  • complies with the approved design in accordance with § 8 of the Firearms Act and bear the mark “PTB” or
  • complies with the legislation of another Member State which the latter has notified to the European Commission in accordance with Article 4(2) of Commission Implementing Directive (EU) 2019/69 of 16 January 2019 laying down technical specifications for alarm and signal weapons (signal pistols) in accordance with Council Directive 91/477/EEC on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons as a measure transposing that implementing directive,
    so the signal weapon (signal pistol) and ammunition may be taken out of the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany by a person of full age without permission.

On the weapons legislation of the member states of Austria, Italy and Slovenia can unfortunately not be given any information.

While within the member states of the EU exist the same customs law, but different weapons law regulations. It is therefore recommended to inform yourself before the transfer at the specialized authorities of the countries to be crossed about the current regulations.

Since the signal weapon (signal pistol ) and the associated ammunition in the example presented by you are only to be transported via member states of the European Union, customs regulations are not to be observed.”

Signal pistols in Slovenia (via WKÖ)

Thank you very much for your inquiry. As just discussed, we are sending you the relevant provisions from the Slovenian Weapons Act where it states that signal weapons (signal pistol) are not weapons that would fall under Weapons Act. Here is the translation:

Article 3

Classification and categorization of weapons
For the purposes of this law, weapons shall not be deemed to be:

  1. Ornamental weapons;
  2. imitations or replicas of weapons;
  3. antique or ancient weapons;
  4. Intimidating and signaling weapons or weapons intended for alarming, intimidating and signaling, for saving human life, for stunning and slaughtering animals, for harpooning, for commercial or technical purposes, and when possessed or used only for said purposes, and ammunition for such weapons;
  5. Ammunition for weapons referred to in paragraphs 6 and 7 of category D, the projectile itself (bullets, balls) and the casing without net. Notwithstanding the provision of number 4 of the preceding paragraph, a person may acquire, possess or use ammunition for alarm, intimidation and signal weapons to save human lives, for industrial or technical purposes, if he meets the condition of number 1 of the second paragraph, of Article 14 of this Law [age of majority]. Ammunition may only be used with a weapon.

In addition, we have contacted the Slovenian Ministry of Interior, Section for Weapons, through WKÖ for you. We have received the information that since January 2019, the following EU Implementing Directive 2019/69 of the Commission of 16 January 2019 laying down technical specifications for alarm and signal weapons (signal pistols) pursuant to Council Directive 91/477/EEC on control of the acquisition and possession of weapons, is applicable. This EU implementing Directive 2019/69 applies directly in Slovenia and other EU countries, without “translation” into national law.

The proposal is that it would be necessary to check in Austria whether this signal weapon (signal pistol) is in accordance with the EU implementing directive 2019/69. If the signal weapon (signal pistol) is an older model, according to Slovenian authorities, then it will be difficult to pass this weapon under the provisions of the EU implementing directive 2019/69.

Signal Guns Austria

In Austria, it is assumed that flare pistols are signaling devices and – in the absence of the purpose provisions listed in Section 1 of the Weapons Act – are not weapons and should be freely available from the age of 18. However, a “flare gun” suitable for firing shot cartridges (including flare guns in cal.4 with insert barrel on caliber 12) falls under the concept of weapons of the § 1 WaffG.

Therefore, in conclusion, our tip once again: When transporting weapons, including signal pistols, across borders, the path to the competent national authorities of the country of origin should first be sought, especially if older weapons are involved. Because also at the borders applies: ignorance does not protect against punishment.

Other means of signal

In order not to get a high effort and problems with the various other signal means except signal pistols during the procurement and transport, we recommend to acquire them in the country where the boat is stationed.

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