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Firearms incidents in the EU tracked in real-time in online database

Leiden criminologists have co-developed an artificial intelligence technology that tracks the nature and extent of firearm violence in the European Union in real-time in an online database. The technology identifies firearms incidents by continuously scanning more than 350 news sources. ‘You can see the creativity of Dutch criminals.’

The technology was developed within the EU-funded project INSIGHT and designed to paint a more accurate picture of the nature and extent of firearm violence in Europe. Professor Security and Interventions Marieke Liem: ‘Overview studies of firearm violence in Europe take a long time and mainly show a picture of the past. The database gunviolence.eu shows the scope of firearms incidents that are currently reported in the media. This picture is not complete – after all, not all firearms incidents make the news – but it does give more insight into the current extent and especially the nature of firearm violence in the EU.’

National differences in perpetrators, victims and types of weapons

For each firearm incident, the perpetrators, victims, weapons used, the context in which the firearm incident occurred and the media articles that reported on the firearm incident were identified. A unique profile was also created for each country incorporating the latest statistics.

'In the Netherlands firearms are mostly used in a criminal context.'

Researcher Katharina Krüsselmann: ‘The database clearly shows national differences in regard to the nature of firearm violence. In countries like Finland and Sweden, where there are relatively milder laws on the private possession of firearms, you see that firearms are used much more often in the context of domestic violence. In the Netherlands, on the other hand, firearms are mostly used in a criminal context. These are often converted weapons; gas or alarm guns that originally could not fire a bullet but now can, or deactivated weapons that have been reactivated. This reflects the creativity of Dutch criminals.’

The importance of open data

The database is freely accessible and of interest to lawyers, policymakers, journalists, researchers, the police, judges, and ordinary citizens. Liem: ‘What makes this database so special is that it only contains open data. For other data related to this topic, such as police data, you need special permission, but everyone can freely use this database. The project is therefore a great example of open science.’


Project INSIGHT was coordinated by The Flemish Peace Institute and further consists of the Small Arms Survey, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Textgain, the South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC), Leiden University, Europol, the European Firearms Experts, EMPACT Firearms, the Belgian Federal Police and the Dutch Police.

Text: Sabine Waasdorp

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