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Europe's Restrictive Gun Laws Disarm Victims, Not Terrorists

A thriving and unbeatable black market makes weapons available no matter what officials intend.

When wannabe-terrorist Ayoub El Khazzani was wrestled to the floor of a train in France and given a righteous stomping by pissed off and proactive passengers, they relieved him of a small armory. He had been planning to inflict murder and mayhem with an AKM assault rifle, a semiautomatic pistol, a box cutter, and a container of gasoline. Despite themselves being unarmed, three Americans, a French-American, and a Briton jumped Khazzani, beat him with his own rifle, and put an end to his scheme.

But how did the misfired terrorist acquire his intended implements of destruction in supposedly gun-phobic Europe? Could it be that firearms aren't quite so unavailable as right-thinking policy-peddlers assure us on their way to insisting that Americans should be disarmed in (supposed) likewise fashion?

It's a question that was also raised in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack by terrorists wielding AK-style rifles, pistols, and submachine guns. Observers were puzzled because France's gun laws are relatively restrictive, and the terrorists clearly hadn't bothered to navigate the byzantine red tape to acquire their weapons. So, where did they come from?

In both cases, the answer is the same. Black markets thrive where legal availability is restricted or forbidden. "The French black market for weapons has been inundated with eastern European war artillery and arms," French police union official Philippe Capon told Bloomberg back in January. "They are everywhere in France."

"According to the French Interior Ministry drug dealers and terrorists have been acquiring these weapon in increasing numbers," The Independent reported after the recent incident.

In fact, off-the-books weapons are so pervasive throughout Western Europe that they render irrelevant the official gun ownership figures relied on by most of the folks tut-tutting over America's crime rate and widespread civilian gun ownership. "The US is an outlier on gun violence because it has way more guns than other developed nations," Vox recently insisted.

Maybe. In reality, "[t]he research community has been unable to reach a consensus as to whether a relationship between guns and crime exist," Xavier University's Matthew Lang, assistant professor of economics, wrote in 2013. Lang also acknowledged that U.S. gun sales have soared since 2007 even as crime has decreased.

And that thriving black market decried by Capon and company make a hash of official numbers. The gap in ownership isn't as wide as the tutters would have it.

"Contrary to the common assumption that Europeans are virtually unarmed, the 15 countries of the European Union have an estimated 84 million firearms. Of that, 67 million (80 per cent) are in civilian hands," noted the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey in 2003.

At that time, the organization reported registered civilian-owned firearms in France as numbering 2.8 million. But unregistered guns owned in defiance of the law were estimated at 15 to 17 million, vastly outnumbering official figures.

Belgium, where the train Khazzani intended to turn into a killing ground originated, had 458,000 registered firearms in 2003. But the unregistered total is again much larger, at an estimated 2 million.

Even in neighboring Germany, stereotyped as a nation of reflexive law-abiders, 7.2 million legal guns are far outnumbered by 17 to 20 million illegal firearms.

Numbers like that outstrip the acquisitive capabilities of even the most active criminal element or terrorist underground. They indicate widespread defiance of gun restrictions by average Europeans, who kept their guns off the books after laws were tightened and topped off their personal collections with weapons smuggled primarily from Eastern Europe—and at surprisingly affordable prices (AK-47s are available in Western Europe for €300 to €700, according to Havocscope, which tracks shadow economic activity).

Actual ownership rates, the Small Arms Survey suggests, reflect the impact of "distinct national cultures…not legal barriers."

Of course, numbers of guns matter less than who has them. Most of the owners of those millions of illegal firearms have no violent intent at all. They simply refuse to comply with the law, perhaps because of the "pervasive culture of non-cooperation with public authorities" that the Survey describes as existing in many nations. That's not a threat to anything more than the job satisfaction of some European bureaucrats. But black markets that inevitably rise up to cater to demand for products that governments want to restrict or ban are also perfectly capable of serving the small numbers of terrorists who want to do enormous harm to the world around them. Officials incapable of disarming the millions of Belgians, French, and Germans who scoff at restrictive gun laws have no hope of denying weapons to a handful of murderous thugs.

The Small Arms Survey emphasized this point long before Charlie Hebdo and the train attack, referring to the "the tiny quantities of small arms required for an organized, long-term terror campaign." For 27 years, the communist November 17 group "based its terror campaign on a handful of guns."

Yes, Europe has, by and large, more restrictive firearms laws than most American states. But those laws haven't had much effect on the actual availability of guns, since they've been met by defiance and helped breed a brisk underground trade. And they're certainly no barrier to small numbers of terrorists who have dedicated themselves to harming others and see the law as no hurdle to achieving that goal.

The main impact then of restrictive gun laws may be to strip law-abiding people of means with which they might defend themselves while leaving criminals and terrorists well-armed. That leaves intended victims in the difficult position of deciding whether to put their heads down and charge a homicidal fanatic holding an assault rifle. When successful, that makes for heroic headlines. But it's a hell of a risky tactic on which to rest your fate.

Photo Credit: Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo/flickr

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  • T. Walls||

    I went to a gun show and visited several gun stores in Germany. If you have a collector's license you can acquire some pretty amazing stuff, including original Sturmgewehr 44s and Schnellfeuer Mauser pistols converted to semi-auto only. Of course the ATF thinks "once a machine gun, always a machine gun" so no such goodies are available here unless they're prohibitively expensive Class III items.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You know what Europe should do? They should ban possessing illegal firearms. Heck, they should ban owning anything illegal.

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    Interesting idea, very interesting. But tell us genius, how do you expect nations to ban illegal anythings ? Yea, go on, tell us !

  • Chip off the ol' tree||

    Whoosh

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    With random surprise inspections of all residences, businesses, land, etc., of course!

    Given the possible danger of discovering heavily armed occupants, this should be done by surprise -- as a no knock SWAT team raid with flash bangs, body armor, full automatic weapons, contraband-sniffing dogs, thermal imaging, metal-detector scans, etc.

    /sarc

  • Tionico||

    and mustn't leave off with the toddlers in their cribs to catch the flashbangs.....

    more sarc/

  • opus313||

    Once again demonstrating the need for a sarcasm font.

  • Res ipsa loquitur||

    I was joking too......grrrrrr, it sounded funny in my mind.

  • Tionico||

    easy. Just put a notice, maybe three column inches, on the back page near all the adverts in the Daily Fishwrap. You know, the part where EVERYONE reads? Tell them "you musn't have Such and SUch after this date next week, as it is no longer allowed.".

  • The Grinch||

    Looks like they need to pass more laws.

  • NYC2AZ||

    One more law should do it... until the next time.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    This is entirely beside the point. There should be no debate on the issue of "practical" gun control until the gun grabbers admit they need to propose an Amendment to the Costitution.

    Why?

    Because the threat of government by whim is worse then the threat of disarmament. Because the FIRST issue is; are the Progressive buttinskis going to play by the goddamned rules, or are we just going to let them do as they please with our lives.

  • ||

    Measure how far we have moved away from constitutional government and you will have an answer to your question.

  • PaulW||

    The Constitution is nothing but a hindrance to their totalitarian dreams.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Which is exactly the point of a Constitution, and something they need to have branded on their buttocks where they an see it when they come out to speak.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The Germans let them do as they pleased with THEIR lives. Wasn't that an altruistic enough example?

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    The Constitution is not a suicide pact! Of course we can ban guns! The Second Amendment clearly says the word "regulation"! You only have the right to bear arms in the militia!

    /prog

  • ||

    The Constitution IS a suicide pact IF that's what the voters intended an Amendment to mean and the Supreme Court rules as such. But just because a court makes a ruling does not mean we have to follow it.

  • Tionico||

    I think its Bernie Saunders, and we KNOW about Madame Fine Stine, who have both proposed ending that pesky Second... but they all fail to realise that our right to arms is NOT "given" or "granted" by the Constitutioin nor any other part of government. It is given us by the God who gives \us life, and it cannot be taken away by government. I think there has recently surfaced another nutjob federal "representative" who recently came out with a plan to "repeal" that Second.... dreamer, he is. And no, he's NOT hispanic, not that kind of dreamer.

  • Will4Freedom||

    Maybe if Liberals just explained to the Terrorists that "guns are bad... mmkay?"

    Or maybe there a just not enough "gun free zones".

    idiots.

  • John Galt||

    Euro-turdwankers.

  • Adans smith||

    Europe has a long history of keeps the 'pesants ' unarmed.It was illegal for most to even own a sword.It's always been about control of the people.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Several libertarian translators have been at work on the gun laws as the National Socialists consolidated the power of positive christianity over Germany's democratic process. Here is one from thejewishlibertarian:
    http://thejewishlibertarian.co.....tallnacht/ Stephen Halbrook has published Gun Control in The Third Reich, which further develops the translations of laws passed by German and Austrian elected representatives.
    The panhandling Wikipedia has its own article up dismissing all claims that Jews would have been better off if they too had had guns (rather than just the official nationalsocialist police and defense forces) as tacky and speculative. Remember that.

  • ace_m82||

    I don't know why you bother bringing up "positive christianity" in this post as if it had anything to do with subject at hand.

    It was neither positive nor Christian. Why do you harp on it all the time?

  • Chip off the ol' tree||

    I've read that they even regulated bow draw strengths and bow lengths. Lol, like an assault bow ban.

    #NobodyNeeds30lbs

    I wonder if the first paleolithic settlements had any sort of weapon control? Probably not. Can you imagine though?

    Og, why need two spears?
    Og, why not use club?
    Chieftain ban Obsidian tipped assault spear, if you no able to kill boar with flint tip you bad hunter
    Tribeswoman think you are compensating for small twig and berries.
    Remember many moon ago? Two little ones play with assault spear, one die.
    Why you think you can overthrow bad chieftain? Chieftain have bronze armor, you never kill chieftain

  • DenverJ||

    Very good

  • Tionico||

    twig and berries.... indeed.

  • SaulOhio||

    I have heard the argument that at least gun control laws make it harder for criminals to get weapons. Whether or not that is true, it still disarms law abiding citizens even more, tipping the balance of power more in favor of the violent criminals.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The answer to that is, of course, that the point is not making it hard for the criminals to get guns, but making it hard for them to get away, which an armed citizenry does to a nicety.

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    Mexico has strict gun control laws yet drug cartels are heavily armed.

    A statist might say they're getting them here, yet I don't know of many gun stores that sell AK-47s and RPGs…

  • Chip off the ol' tree||

    AKs, yeah. But they're semi-auto. Those cartels aren't interested in that shit.

    They get their arms from the global market, runnin' funs is the same as runnin' las drogas. Maybe easier, unless they train the dogs to sniff Cosmoline or something.

    Shit, El-Salvidor just had a civil war a decade ago or whatever right? AK-47s and RPG-7s out the wazoo.

    B-b-b-but legislator pens are magic wands!

  • ||

    They get hand grenades and machine guns sold to them right out of the military arsenals South of the border.

  • Tionico||

    those are the tired old saws of the gun grabbers... no, criminals, being criminals already, have their networks and sources of supply both inbound and outbound worked out. Read Dickens' accounts of life in old London. ANything anyone wanted was readily available, even to a child. It ain't what ya know, its who ya know. HOW did that fifteen year old punk killed whilst housebreaking and toting a revolver GET IT? Fifteen and had his own handgun. And Papa did not get it for him. (he'd likely not seen his Pappy for a few years..... if indeed he even knows who he is, or Pappy knows he has (rather, HAD, past tense) a son that looks like the kinyun.

  • Hank Phillips||

    A comparison is in order.
    In Scene 1 a bunch of legally disarmed cartoonists are sitting around Vichy France. In walk the Propheteers and blam... scratch one cop and a handful of cartoonists. As a consolation prize, Farenheit 451 helicopters did pick someone off afterward.
    Scene 2 is just outside Dallas, Texas, where similar Propheteers come charging up against a gathering of free-market cartoonists and blam... Texas cop handgun sends them off to harvest 72 birchins despite the assault weapons prohibited to those unstable individuals who (ghasp!) had them anyway. Which is the better scenario?

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    But...but...but... we are in a civil society!

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Somebody needs to explain gently to the Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressives that we do NOT live in a Civil Society, as demonstrated by their presence.

  • Tionico||

    rendered the more so by virtue of the one armed Good Guy With A Gun to despatch the Bad Guys With Guns and Stinky Attitudes.

  • DenverJ||

    #blackmarketsmatter

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    *African-American markets matter.

  • DenverJ||

    #allmarketsmatter

  • hjc4604||

    "That leaves intended victims in the difficult position of deciding whether to put their heads down and charge a homicidal fanatic holding an assault rifle. When successful, that makes for heroic headlines. But it's a hell of a risky tactic on which to rest your fate." Not really much of a choice. Sit there and be slaughtered or act. You really have nothing to lose by acting. They are alive because they acted and thanks to them, many others are alive who would not be.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Socialist gun confiscation propaganda avoids naming the party whose program writer became Chancellor of Germany in 1933. Instead of National Socialist Workers Party of Germany, both the christian and nonchristian looter press insert the Soviet nickname-cum-epithet "Nazi." Any reference to the translated laws passed by majority vote of elected representatives in the German Reichstag prohibiting Jews and most others from owning guns is dismissively labelled Argumentum ad Hitlerum. If I were advocating law identical or similar to the writ that ran the Hitler war machine, I would certainly want to camouflage the fact. Socialism requires deciding matters at gunpoint. The initiation of force is what makes socialism different from what libertarians advocate. Force is also what the Germans and Austrians got aplenty in exchange for their socialist votes. Surely one would have to dispense with straightforward honesty in order to again perpetuate such a system.

  • Ron||

    I can't get an AK in the U.S. for that low price. I guess i need to go to Europe to get one.

  • In League with the Dark Ones||

    It's 400 USD in California…

  • DenverJ||

    Back when the soviet union collapsed, you could get surplus from Yugoslavia for around $100 each, and the surplus ammo was dirt cheap also, although every tenth round was a misfire.

  • ||

    {Even in neighboring Germany, stereotyped as a nation of reflexive law-abiders, 7.2 million legal guns are far outnumbered by 17 to 20 million illegal firearms.}-

    The Social Democrats forced national firearms registration in 1971 on the German people, most of the otherwise very law abiding and compliant population IGNORING the Government diktat.

  • Tionico||

    like their Grossfahteren wished they had done some thirty five years earlier.

  • rajpe||

    The reason for Europe's lower murder rate has nothing to do with Gun Control.

    The sad truth is that Europe's lower murder rate is a consequence of demographics.

    Eliminate USA murders committed by Blacks & the USA murder rate is lower than Europe's.

    The USA has an African-American-murder-rate-problem, not a "Gun" problem.

    Perhaps numbers are racist - the fact that over 50% of USA murders are committed by Blacks.

    Another "racist" number: In Britain, its Blacks are imprisoned at a rate seven (7) times Whites.

    Perhaps if it were true that "Black Lives Matter" the issue of "Guns" would go away.

  • Lawman45||

    After WWII the millions of firearms "acquired" by the French Resistance just up and "disappeared." They have been passed down as family heirlooms for 2 or 3 generations. They are NEVER coming back into control of any government. The French will obey until ... they don't.

  • Steven Wolf||

    I think that Ronald Noble head of Interpol had it right. Give people the right to carry guns for self-defense and terrorists will think twice about carrying mass shooting attacks.

  • Alan@.4||

    Did the head of Interpol really say something that sensible??

  • Alan@.4||

    The headline and sub respectively read as follows:

    Europe's Restrictive Gun Laws Disarm Victims, Not Terrorists
    A thriving and unbeatable black market makes weapons available no matter what officials intend.

    You wouldn't kid a reader, would you.

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