In the wake of another round of horrendous mass shootings in the USA, I thought it was timely to do a quick post showing the rather saner (if somewhat varied) picture in Europe. The data in the infographic below (courtesy of Statista) shows gun violence deaths per 100,000 people for 2019. As a point of comparison, the US rate is 4.12 deaths per 100,000, more than 40 times higher than the UK.
Lethal gun violence peaked in the European Union in the 1990s, and saw a downward turn between the year 2,000 and 2012, according to Project TARGET, a landmark report by the Flemish Peace Institute published in 2021. Its main findings were that gun trafficking is a multifaceted phenomenon that predominantly impacts criminal and terrorist gun violence (rather than domestic violence or other sorts of disputes).
Readers won’t be surprised to read that both the perpetrators and victims of fatal gun violence tend to be young (aged under 35 years) men.
Armed robbers and lower-level criminals generally acquire firearms to threaten or for the status they afford, and they are increasingly doing so through purchasing (converted) non-live-firing firearms. The
predominant type today has become Turkish blank-firing weapons purchased in countries with lenient legislation regarding these weapons.
There is also an influx of easy-to-convert Flobert guns being trafficked in(to) Europe and converted in transit or at their place of destination (Flobert guns are typically less powerful, smaller calibre guns designed for indoor target shooting. Firearms can be designed originally as Flobert guns and subsequently converted into higher-calibre firearms; or higher-calibre firearms can be converted into Flobert guns, which were in some countries available without or with a more lenient licence, and reconverted in their place of destination.)
Higher-level criminals have more access to firearms, including sometimes also military grade firearms, through the smuggling of conflict legacy weapons or the trafficking of reactivated firearms.
While jihadi terrorists tend to acquire their firearms predominantly through criminal connections, rightwing terrorists more often tend to rely on legal purchases, firearm assembling and internet purchases.
The researchers noted that a proliferation of gun availability can lead to an arms race among criminals, increased rates of gun violence and general feelings of insecurity among the general public.
The authors highlight new technologies and trafficking methods likely to result in increased availability of firearms.
- 3D-printing of firearms. In recent years several cases of small and larger 3Dprinting facilities for firearms have been dismantled by national law enforcement agencies across Europe. Additive printing has facilitated the creation of ‘ghost guns’. They can be used by their creator or offered on the illicit market. Some cases of 3D-printing of firearms are connected to rightwing extremism.
- Darkweb. Certain less accessible corners of the internet are featuring firearms. These darknets are difficult to monitor and the firearms purchased on these platforms are equally difficult to trace.