EU can be ‘rapidly’ dragged into gun violence, report warns

14 Dec, 2021 18:15

There has been a surge in gun violence in the EU that could “rapidly and drastically” deteriorate the security situation, claims the first comprehensive report to have studied the local black market of firearms and its impact.

According to the EU-funded Project Target report, “increased availability of firearms can rapidly and drastically alter the peaceful course” of any EU member state. While focusing on the impact of gun trafficking on gun violence in the EU, the study explores the situation in 34 European countries: 27 EU member states, the UK, and six countries of the Western Balkans.

Decreasing rates of lethal gun violence and low rates of firearm injuries should not provide a “false sense of security,” even in the countries that are being considered as some of the safest in the world, the study authors, Nils Duquet and Dennis Vanden Auweele, warn.

They note that the rate of lethal gun violence has stopped declining since 2012 and in some countries, such as Sweden, it has slowly started to remount.

The findings show that the black market is thriving, with the impact “particularly apparent” in the Netherlands and Sweden, and “to a somewhat lesser extent” in Belgium and Denmark. The illegal sales are making firearms more available to criminals “at all levels” and serve as “an important contributor to firearm violence,” predominantly criminal and terrorist, the researchers say.

The report provides several recommendations. It points to the necessity of “publicly accessible, standardized and comparable” data on the firearms being used in incidents, as well as the seizure data. It also calls for a more systematic approach to the problem, with 81 million firearms believed to be held in the EU in 2017, both legally and illegally.

The study also draws attention to “new evolutions and technologies” that present the risk of “impacting firearm violence impressively in the coming years.” The researchers provide 3D printing as an example of such technologies, noting that “some cases of 3D printing of firearms are connected to rightwing extremism.”

The study was prepared by the Flemish Peace Institute, a research body within the Flemish Parliament. Duquet, the institute’s director, called the report a “first piece of the puzzle” in a fight against gun violence and firearms trafficking.

While progress has been made and international cooperation has increased within the EU, more is needed to strengthen law enforcement capacities, enhance information sharing, and close legal loopholes,” he told the media.