Call for Europe-wide evidence-sharing to target gun crime and terror
Investigators across Europe should gather and share more evidence about guns to crack down on firearms crime and terrorism, researchers say.
A study led by Coventry University recommended setting up "firearms focal points" to collect and share weapons and ballistics evidence.
Recommendations from the 15-month project, which looked at countries in south-eastern Europe, were passed to the European Parliament and law enforcement chiefs on Wednesday.
Helen Poole from Coventry University said: "In south-eastern Europe we found that investigators and prosecutors require additional ballistics intelligence support and training that would enable them to understand the positive impact that ballistics information can deliver in solving crimes and tackling terrorism.
"Countries also need to have the necessary technology and procedures in place that would enable them to further reduce the availability and use of illegal firearms.
"If each country created a single firearms focal point to gather, analyse and then share information - not only about the firearms, but also pertaining ballistic material - with their counterparts across south-east Europe, and beyond, this would be a major leap forward in protecting communities."
As part of the research, experts from UK firm Arquebus helped analyse 1,000 gun cartridge cases from crimes in Serbia.
Arquebus director Matt Lewis said: "In our examination of cartridge cases in Serbia, using ballistic analysis systems not currently available in the country, we were able to identify connections relating to around 50 shootings, a considerable number of which were previously unknown. We also compared the results against a number of ballistic databases in other countries and identified potential links with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and Sweden.
"Firearms are used by criminals on multiple occasions both internally within a country and across international borders. Developing an accurate picture of their use and how they are trafficked is vital and is in the interest of all citizens across Europe and beyond.
"A Europe-wide ballistic information network will help further reduce deaths and injuries caused by the illegal use of firearms for crimes and terrorism.
"Understanding more about where they originate from, how they move within countries and cross-border and have been used before, will enable the UK to work with other countries to help tackle the problem at source, rather than at our border."