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News blog5 July 2021Directorate-General for Communication

New rules to counter gun smuggling: have your say!

Criminals are changing their methods to smuggle deadly weapons into the European Union. Law enforcement can’t stay behind. That’s why I am updating our EU rulebook on the import and export of firearms. And today I’m launching a public consultation, to hear your views.

Just as I started work on this blog, I heard the news that criminals shot a young police officer in Sweden. He was patrolling, stopped to talk to some people. All of a sudden he was hit by a deadly bullet. Rushed to hospital, they couldn’t save his life.

A young man with friends and family, who now have to deal with this terrible loss. My thoughts are with them.  

This is an attack on our democracy and society, when criminals kill someone who serves the public good.

Sadly, this is not the only murder to bring grief and suffering

Last August gangsters shot and killed a 12 year old girl in Sweden. An innocent girl, caught in the crossfire of criminal violence.

Last November, a terrorist shot and killed four people in Vienna, with an automatic rifle. He also carried a pistol. 

These murders are an attack on us all, especially when police officers, lawyers, politicians and journalists are the target – like the shootings of Dutch lawyer Derk Wiersum, German politician Walter Lübcke, and the murders of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová in Slovakia. 

Guns kill people. And the more guns there are, the more people die.

That’s why in Europe we have some of the strictest rules in the world on the sale and use of guns: banning the most dangerous weapons and very tightly controlling other gun use: for hunting, for sport, or for security.

Despite these measures, there are around 35 million illegal firearms in the European Union. Many of them smuggled across borders, by organised criminals.  Who don’t just smuggle guns, but use them to commit other crimes – robberies, drug trafficking, murder.  Organised crime is becoming increasingly violent and increasingly professional, as outlined in Europol’s Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment 2021.

To fight organised crime I launched a strategy in April. A strategy to boost police cooperation and information exchange across borders. To improve technological innovation to help police deal with digital threats and electronic evidence. To make sure crime doesn’t pay, by doing more to freeze and recover criminal assets.

By countering gun smuggling, we literally take weapons out of criminal hands.  I launched an action plan against firearms trafficking last year. To strengthen law enforcement in the fight against traffickers and improve international cooperation – especially with the Western Balkans, where leftover weapons from recent wars are a threat to people in the region and in the European Union.

As a first concrete step in this action plan I am updating our EU rules on the import and export of firearms.

The goal of this revision is first, to stop criminals using legal companies to smuggle illegal weapons – like the more than 300 rifles and semi-automatic rifles captured in Lithuania last April, along with 12,000 rounds of ammunition.

Second, we must tackle the new methods smugglers use. Like misdeclaring firearms as non-lethal, like blank-firing weapons. Or taking weapons apart and posting them in pieces to Europe for reassembly, ready to do harm. Last November Europol coordinated a successful action against these “mail order gun traffickers”. Our legislation must be up to date, so police and customs can do an even better job.

And third, I want to improve export controls, and prevent legally exported weapons falling into the wrong hands outside Europe.  In 43% of cases, national authorities do not check with other Member States if they have imposed export restrictions on a company abroad. Potentially allowing terrorists or criminals to gain access to these weapons – which can be used to destabilise the region, or can end up back on the streets of Europe.

In short, I want to closely control guns that enter and leave the European Union, to keep them out of the hands of criminals and terrorists.

How can we best reach that goal? Today, I’m asking for your help to answer that question in this public consultation.  I’m asking everyone who’s involved in controlling the import and export of firearms: public authorities, customs officials, law enforcement officers, firearms specialists – but anyone is welcome to answer.

What steps do we need to take to prevent the spread of illegal firearms?

Please answer the questionnaire here.

Details

Publication date
5 July 2021
Author
Directorate-General for Communication