Criminal ‘arms race’ making firearms more accessible to terrorists

A new European Commission report has warned that a criminal ‘arms race’ in Europe is making the availability of high-powered, military grade firearms more easily obtainable to terrorists. Following attacks on France, Belgium, Germany, the UK and Sweden in the last few years, the European Commission survey said that long-standing barriers to obtaining firearms have broken down in light of technology advances, cross-border smuggling and the widespread reactivation of weapons previously rendered unusable to be sold to collectors. The report noted that the terrorists in the Paris 2015 attack used ‘primarily automatic AK-pattern assault rifles and handguns acquired from intra-European criminal sources’, causing vast numbers of casualties. Highlighting two worrying trends, firstly the ‘trickling-down’ of the possession and use of firearms to lower-level criminals and, secondly, the growing overlap between Islamic extremists and the criminal underworld, the report also expresses concern at the developing phenomenon of ‘gangster jihads’, a term for terrorists who have previously been convicted for petty or serious crimes. Nils Duquet, the editor of the report, said: “In western Europe the traditional closed character of criminal gun markets has partially eroded in recent years and we have observed an increased availability of military-grade firearms. These weapons have then also ended up in hands of terrorists. “A number of recent cases, for example, have demonstrated that criminals have been trying to bring military-grade firearms to the UK by exploiting legal loopholes in other EU member states with regard to easy-to-reactivate deactivated firearms.”