High threats of terror attacks and surging crime have left Europeans increasingly uneasy about their personal safety. And because gun control laws are so strict in Europe, citizens are resorting to illicit means to obtain firearms, to the point that, The Wall Street Journal reports, “unregistered weapons outnumbered legal ones” in 2017.
World-wide civilian ownership of firearms rose 32% in the decade through 2017 … Europe accounts for less than 10% of the total.
But Europe’s shift has been rapid, and notable in part because of strict national restrictions. In most European countries, gun permits require thorough background checks, monitored shooting practice and tests on regulations. In Belgium, France and Germany, most registered guns may only be used at shooting ranges. Permits to bear arms outside of shooting ranges are extremely difficult to obtain.
Strict registration requirements don’t account for—and may exacerbate—a surge in illegal weapons across the continent, experts say.
The Small Arms Survey found that in 2017, there were 44.5 million unregistered European guns, compared to 34.2 million registered ones.
“As the demand [for guns] has grown, so has the supply, mostly through the ‘Deep Web,’ also known as the ‘dark web,’ the ‘invisible web,’ or the ‘hidden web,’” the New American reports. “This is the part of the Internet that is off-limits to traditional search engines; where illicit trading takes place… According to the Rand Corporation, ‘Europe represents the largest market for arms trade on the dark web, generating revenues that are around five times higher than the U.S.’”
The number of legally procured guns has also surged, and permits to possess guns outside of shooting ranges and to own air guns have also tripled and doubled, respectively, in recent years all across Europe.
According to the New American,
The head of Britain’s task force for serious and organized crime, Chief Constable Andy Cooke, told the Daily Mail that the number of firearms rose significantly in 2018 and “will continue to go up in 2019.”
Cooke is doing all he can to stop the flow, but his efforts are puny compared to the supply demanded by citizens increasingly concerned over their personal safety: “We are doing all we can. We are not in a position to stop it any time soon.… The problem is such that despite a number of excellent firearms seizures, I expect the rise in supply to be a continuing issue.”
‘An Epidemic of Violence’
It isn’t just terror attacks that have Europeans rightly concerned for their safety. The British Times reported in April 2018, “London murder rate beats New York as stabbings surge.”
The BBC reported in January of this year, “Germany: Migrants ‘may have fueled violent crime rise.’”
“Police have recorded another surge in violent offences including murder, manslaughter, and stabbings as the number of police officers and detection rate plunged to a record low,” the Guardian reported last year. “In an alarming day for crime and policing, a rush of statistics prompted warnings of a ‘public health emergency’, an ‘epidemic of violence’ and claims the country is ‘sleepwalking into a nightmare’.”
Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.