Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Project TARGET: gun violence and firearms trafficking in Europe”

Project TARGET aims to improve our understanding of gun violence in Europe and the relationship between gun violence and firearms trafficking.

Duration
2020  -   2021
Contact
Marieke Liem
Partners

Research consortium
Flemish Peace Institute (coordinator)
Leiden University’s Institute of Security and Global Affairs

Associate partners
Europol
The Dutch National Police
UNDP-SEESAC
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drugs Addiction (EMCDDA)

The regulation of private gun ownership in Europe has been shaped by the objective to limit related security risks, and especially the risks of gun violence in our society. In-depth research into the characteristics and dynamics of gun violence in Europe is scarce, partially as a result of a lack of reliable, comprehensive and detailed data on this phenomenon. Project TARGET aims to improve our understanding of gun violence in Europe and the relationship between gun violence and firearms trafficking.

Main research questions

The main research question of this research project is therefore:

1. What is the impact of illicit firearms trafficking on gun violence?

a. What are the connections between the various types of firearms trafficking and different types of gun violence in different European countries?
b. How has illicit firearms trafficking influenced the dynamics of different types of gun violence in various European countries?

To answers this research question we first have to address the lacuna of knowledge on gun violence across Europe and the firearms used in these acts of violence:

2. What is the scope and nature of gun violence in Europe?

a. How many cases of lethal and non-lethal incidents of gun violence can be identified in European countries?
b. What was the specific context (criminal violence, politically-motivated violence, domestic violence, etc) in which these incidents of gun violence take place? How do these contexts differ across European countries?
c. What are the characteristics of the perpetrators and victims of these different types of gun violence?
d. What share of acts of armed violence are perpetrated with a firearm? Is there a difference in context and lethality of these acts of violence?

3. What firearms are used in gun violence in Europe?

a. Which types of firearms are used in different types of gun violence in European countries?
b. What is the legal status of the firearms are used in these different types of gun violence?
c. What is the share of gun violence incidents committed with trafficked firearms?
d. What are the sources and supply chains of trafficked firearms used in these different types of gun violence?

Answering these above questions will provide us with insights into the problems of data collection
related to illicit firearms trafficking (IFT) and gun violence in Europe and on the possibilities for
enhancing EU and national policy options to combating IFT and its impact on gun violence.

The final research questions of this project are therefore:

4. What are the main challenges for data collection on the impact of illicit firearms trafficking on gun violence in Europe?

a. Which data on illicit firearms trafficking and gun violence are currently collected in European countries?
b. What data are still missing? How important is it to collect additional data to inform and enhance policy?
c. How can current problems of data collection and analysis be addressed? What best practices can be identified?

5. What policy should be developed with regard to illicit firearms trafficking to prevent gun violence in Europe more effectively and efficiently?

a. What best practices can be identified to limit the impact of illicit firearms trafficking on gun violence?
b. How can information-exchange on illicit firearms trafficking gun violence, and best practices to combat these phenomena be enhanced?

Improving understanding dynamics of gun violence

Project TARGET will significantly improve our understanding of the dynamics of gun violence across Europe and the impact of illicit firearms trafficking on gun violence. This improved understanding will allow for better detection, investigation and prosecution of these phenomena. The project results can also be used to strengthen various types of initiatives to combat gun violence from different perspectives (policy, law enforcement and criminal justice, civil society) and at different levels (EU,
national, local).

As Project TARGET will be the first in-depth study on the relationship between illicit firearms trafficking and different types of gun violence across Europe, it will become a baseline study for future studies monitoring gun violence across Europe and evaluating the impact of various measures undertaken to combat illicit firearms trafficking and gun violence in Europe. In addition, it will enable future research projects on different specific aspects of these security phenomena, for example by identifying the existing challenges with regard to data collection.

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