Migration and Home Affairs

Trafficking in firearms

Action

Direct Intervention

Guidance

Funding

Law

Agreements and international instruments

Objectives

1. Closing legal loopholes used by criminals

  • Europe has recently updated its provisions to face the new security challenges to keep its legislation on firearms among the toughest in the world on the civilian sale of automatic rifles and the most dangerous semi-automatic weapons. It has created common standards on the deactivation of firearms.
  • Imports, exports and transfers of firearms must comply with specified authorization standards.

2. Supporting law enforcement co-operation

  • Operational Action Plans (OAPs): yearly plans of Member States, EU institutions and agencies, as well as third countries, international organisations and other (public and private) partners to fight firearms trafficking, coordinated through the EMPACT multidisciplinary co-operation platform . Within it, the Commission supports work on harmonised statistics for firearms seizures, to ensure interconnection between databases of lost firearms, or interoperability of automated ballistics information systems.
  • The EU supports the fight against firearms trafficking and cooperation between the EU and other countries, mostly around the Mediterranean, sub-Saharan Africa and South East Europe. One model for enhanced cooperation with third countries is the joint EU-Balkans Firearms Trafficking Action Plan for the South East Europe Region (PDF).

3. Providing financial support to law enforcement and research

  • Fund projects on the fight against trafficking in firearms, to:
    •  facilitate joint initiatives and operational actions of EU countries associated with non-EU countries;
    • improve expertise by enhancing knowledge, detection, investigation and prosecution,
    • promote best practices and intelligence along firearms trafficking routes,
    • reduce diversion of firearms into criminal hands in the EU.
  • The EU has deployed millions to support disarmament and demobilisation and to disrupt illegal trade in small arms and light weapons around the world, and the Western Balkans.

Context

  • Firearms are the lifeblood of organised crime in Europe as elsewhere in the world.
  • They facilitate the trade in illegal drugs and trafficking in human beings. The supply of stolen, smuggled and converted replica guns fuels urban gang conflict. Firearms are typically used by all organised crime groups to intimidate and coerce their victims (PDF).
  • According to a Eurobarometer survey (PDF), most Europeans are worried about the level of crimes using firearms, and expect the EU to take action in close collaboration with national governments.
  • The life cycle of a weapon begins with its manufacture. It is then traded and used, most of the time responsibly and for legitimate purposes such as hunting and sports shooting. At the end of its life it may be deactivated or completely destroyed. Criminals acquire firearms by exploiting vulnerabilities in this life cycle. They forge documents to enable false transactions, or they convert deactivated or gas and alarm weapons into operational firearms.
  • The EU is uniquely placed to help disrupt criminal markets through its laws enabling common EU standards, through funding streams, through police and customs cooperation and engagement with third countries and international organisations.

What you can do

Contact the Commission’s Firearms Task-Force with your experiences of firearms controls or if you have been unfortunate enough to have been a victim of gun-related crime.

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