The article written by Paul Cocks and published in ‘Malta Today’ on 15 May contains several inaccuracies, which need to be addressed. Let us dissect the article and provide the missing background information.

According to the article, the number of firearms registered with the Police in Malta as of 31 December 2019 stood at 129,423 pieces. This figure is composed of the following quantities. We are adding our notes to put things in perspective.

The following terms are being used to describe the various licences:

TSL-B       Target Shooter Licence B
TLS-A       Target Shooter Licence A
TSL-A(S)   Target Shooter Licence A Special
CL-B         Collector Licence B
CL-A         Collector Licence A
CL-A(S)     Collector Licence A Special
HL            Hunting Licence

Schedule III Firearms
Muzzle Loaders         3,185             No licence required

The article lists these separately as “115 black powder revolvers, 19 blunderbusses, 217 flintlock muskets, 459 flintlock pistols, 221 muskets, 1,391 muzzle-loading guns and 763 percussion cap pistols.” These should no longer be included in the list of registered firearms as they were deregulated in March 2019, when the local laws were updated to transpose the new EU Directive.

Schedule II Firearms
Pistols                         18,992             TSL-A or CL-A
Revolvers                      7,552             TSL-A or CL-A
Rifles                           17,241            TSL-A or CL-A
Tactical Shotguns           1,023             TSL-B
Shotguns                     66,000+          TSL-B or HL
Air rifles                     not listed           TSL-B or HL

These are the only firearms which may be taken to the range for target shooting, whereas shotguns and airguns listed on a Hunting Licence may be used for such a purpose.

Schedule I Firearms
Assault rifles                      42              CL-A(S)
Sub-machine guns            705              CL-A(S)
Machine guns                   565              CL-A(S)
Cannons, mortars etc         28               CL-A
Firearms disguised             11               CL-A
as other objects

These may only be kept for collection purposes under a Collector Licence A Special, provided they are of pre-1946 manufacture or else declared to be rare or historical or artistic by the Weapons Board. They may not be taken to the range for target shooting purposes, as incorrectly stated in the article.

The above figures quoted in the article add up to 115,344 firearms, a figure which is over 14,000 pieces short of the total quoted in the same article. Airguns, which were not mentioned in the article would form a considerable part of that figure.

It should also be noted that some of the above firearms would be listed under the transitional ‘Collector Licence B’, which was granted to owners who held them under the old “To Keep” licence of the Arms Ordinance, when this was repealed to make way for the New Arms Act 2005, and who did not opt to apply for any of the new licences.

Readers will be impressed by the fact that the number of registered firearms includes four ‘hand cannons’. However, they may be pleasantly surprised to learn that these would be small antique muzzle-loading guns which could go as far back as the 14th century (please refer to the illustration). They should not even be on the list. Moreover, the two ‘Rocket Launchers’ are part of a wider movie armoury used in the production of films, which should not come as a surprise considering Malta’s important role in this industry.

In defence of the author, we should say that he stated the correct procedure for rigorous, three-tier controls on how one applies for a Police licence to acquire and keep firearms for target shooting and/or collection purposes. However, we must add that as of March 2019, when Malta transposed the new EU Directive into national law, higher levels of licences were introduced.

A Target Shooter Licence A permits you to keep and use at the range semi-automatic centrefire pistols and rifles with a capped magazine capacity of 20 and 10 rounds respectively. Shooters who want to participate in dynamic shooting disciplines and require larger capacity magazines require a Collector Licence A Special, which they may only apply for if they have been in possession of the regular licence for at least one year.

The Collector Licence A is only for Schedule II firearms, as detailed above. Collectors wishing to acquire and keep a Schedule I firearm must apply for the Collector Licence A Special, and an application for one may only be submitted if that person has been in possession of the regular licence for at least two years.

Malta has one of the most secure yet sensible firearms law in Europe. It is structurally robust, while at the same time it permits sports shooters to practice their sports safely. No wonder that the number of citizens taking up target shooting is on the increase, particularly among women. Moreover, collectors are permitted to fulfill their role in the conservation of historical heritage, alongside national museums.

The focus should be on the vetting procedures applied by the various clubs, to ensure that only those who are genuinely interested in this fascinating topic are inducted into the system. Likewise, dealers are required to observe the regulations carefully to assist in weeding out suspect applicants.

In conclusion, the doors of our Association are always open to journalists who wish to be informed of the correct facts and who are committed to factual reporting, rather than sensationalist drivel.


Stephen A. Petroni

Association of Maltese Arms Collectors & Shooters (1985)