Jump to content

Arms race opening up firearms black market to terrorists, report says


Recommended Posts

Despite the fact dealers are wary of the high risks involved with selling to terrorists.

Two deactivated Second World War machine guns handed in to Westminster Police Station

Two deactivated Second World War machine guns handed in to Westminster Police Station


An “arms race” between criminal gangs, internet sales and the proliferation of modified guns are making it easier for terrorists to access guns, researchers say.

The Project SAFTE paper, funded by the European Commission and co-ordinated by the Flemish Peace Institute, raised concerns that long-standing barriers to firearms acquisition are crumbling, opening the gate to terrorists.

Illicit firearms markets in Europe have traditionally been closed markets with restricted access for people outside criminal networks, the report published last month said.

Even in countries with high levels of illegal firearms possession, the right criminal connections and reputation are crucial to accessing the illicit firearms trade, particularly military grade weapons.

But the internet, cross-border smuggling, the conversion of blank firing guns and reactivation of deactivated firearms has created “arms races” between criminal gangs across the EU, the report said.

“This has facilitated the gradual trickling-down of the possession and use of firearms to lower segments of the criminal hierarchy in several EU member states, especially in Western Europe.

“Most terrorists seem to have a preference for military-grade firearms, although the observed possession of less-suitable firearms among terrorist networks suggests that not all terrorists have access to a wide range of firearms.

“While the traditional separatist groups have developed their own distinct (and context-specific) firearms acquisition patterns, religiously-inspired terrorist networks across the EU generally rely on criminal connections to obtain firearms from local illicit markets.

“There are no indications of significant firearms flows between the various types of terrorist networks in Europe today and also no indications of recent state sponsored arms transfers to terrorist groups in the EU. For most of the contemporary terrorist networks operating in Europe, access to local criminal firearms markets is a key element in their firearms acquisition patterns.”

Prisons are also offering new opportunities for terrorists who don’t yet have the right connections, the report said.

“The overwhelming majority of those perpetrators of recent jihadi terrorist attacks who had a criminal history were involved in low-level criminality. There have been some exceptions of perpetrators who attained a mid-level position in the criminal underworld, but none of the perpetrators or people arrested for plotting terrorist attacks in the EU in recent years was a member of a high-level organised crime group.

“Individuals who acquire firearms for a terrorist network are generally not recruited for this specific purpose, but are already part of the network, and become responsible for this task later because of their skills and networks.”

No illicit firearms dealers have been found who exclusively supply terrorist networks, the report said, and many dealers are unaware their customers have terrorism connections.

Selling to terrorists is considered to involve higher risks of detention with severe but without the lucrative benefits that are associated with criminal gangs.

The report noted UK national policy to address the firearms black market has been characterised as “event-driven” with spikes of Parliament interest following high-profile shooting incidents and releases of data revealing worrying trends in illegal firearms trade.

UK policy would benefit from “a continued focus by politicians and police to maintain low levels of illegal firearms acquisition, possession and use,” it said.

According to the report, the illegal firearms trade underwent a “dramatic” change in 2016.

Instead of the cheaper handguns, firearms use and possession offence data showed an influx of converted Glock 9mm pistols being legally imported as deactivated firearms in the UK, modified and than sold in the UK for £3,000 a piece plus antique St Etienne and Bulldog revolvers being purchased from a retired British couple living in France.

Converted Baikal pistols are also being recovered by police but it is unclear whether they are simply recirculated guns which arrived in the UK between 2006-09.

Since 2013 key informant interviewees have noted the supply of two different types of firearms on the UK illicit market as of particular concern: antique firearms since 2013; and reactivated firearms from Germany and Slovakia since 2015, the report said.

It added National Crime Agency analysis indicates handguns, Skorpion sub-machine guns and assault rifles are smuggled into the UK via Belgium, France, and the Netherlands from Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.

The most significant recent investigation into a registered firearms dealer diverting legally imported guns into the black market was the case of Paul Edmunds, from Hardwicke in Gloucestershire, who was jailed for 30 years in December after his handguns and homemade ammunition were traced to more than 100 crime scenes.

The United States is the source for over half of all firearms seized at UK border entry points.

Many of these firearms can be traced back to so-called ‘straw purchases’ or online purchase

He supplied guns and bullets used in three murders and an attempt to shoot police helicopters.  

It has been estimated that he imported hundreds of firearms from the United States, which were supplied via an intermediary to the Birmingham-based Burger Boys gang. Police found three armouries at his home in Gloucestershire in July 2015, in which he reportedly made tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition that were supplied with the antique firearms to the Burger Boys.

The study was based on an in-depth analysis of the firearms markets in the UK, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Romania.

View On Police Oracle

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...