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Project TARGET: Fatal firearm violence down by 50% since the ‘90s of the previous century

Project TARGET is a research project aimed at the relation between the illegal arms trade and firearm violence. In a study conducted in seven countries, the researchers took a look at the differences and similarities. Katharina Krüsselmann and Marieke Liem took a closer look at the situation in the Netherlands. In this article, we will discuss their most important findings.

The seven studies in this report show the similarities but also the differences. Firearm violence in Europa is not a homogenous phenomenon. Krüsselmann: ‘What our insights have shown it that there is a continuous flow of illegal arms running through Europe. This makes firearms an important tool for intimidation and violence, especially for criminal groups. In some countries, such as Sweden, this also results in an arms race between criminal groups. The overall availability of illegal arms is cause for concern and should be combatted on a national and European level.’

Which conclusions can be drawn?

‘First the good news, fatal firearm violence – such a murder and manslaughter committed with firearms – is down by 50% since the ’90s of the previous century. In 1999, for instance, we registered a hundred firearm violence deaths; over the past few years, that number has been somewhere between thirty-five and forty. Legal possession of firearms in the Netherlands is relatively rare if you compare it to other European countries. The majority of shooting incidents were committed using illegal weapons,’ says Krüsselmann.

Firearm violence in the Netherlands is closely interwoven with organised crime. Research has shown that more than half of the fatal firearm shootings (between 2015 – 2019) can be related to criminal activities and organised crime, such as smuggling or the drugs trade. ‘In case of non-fatal firearm violence, at least a third of the incidents in our database can be linked to organised crime.’

Which actions and recommendations have resulted from the research?

‘We have noticed that research into the phenomenon of firearm violence and trade in the Netherlands, and Europe in general, is difficult because of a lack of available and reliable data. Which is why it is important that the relevant agencies - such as the police, the forensics institute of Europol - continue to collect this data, and also make comparative statistics available on a European level. The number of available firearms in the Netherlands, and Europe, should remain as low as possible, which is why it is important for the police to continue investing proactively and structurally in fighting firearm violence and the illegal trade.’

How will the research be continued?

‘We are working on a follow-up project INSIGHT to address this lack of structural data. In this project, we will develop an online monitor of firearm incidents. We will be using AI technology to collect and analyse all relevant articles in the media on shooting incidents and threats in a publicly accessibly platform. During the TARGET project we have also created the Dutch Firearm Violence Monitor, a database that keeps track of all the shooting incidents in the Netherlands. That monitor is continuously updated,’

The TARGET findings can be found here

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