PARIS Nov 28 If you happen to be not a hunter or a target shooter, it’s almost not possible to buy a gun legally in France. But the country’s strict gun handle laws are not adequate to preserve deadly weapons out of the hands of Islamist militants.
Gaps in the current laws, light sentences, and the absence of a European agency like the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), with its billion-dollar budget and thousands of agents, are the principal problems facing France and its neighbors as they concentrate on tackling gun trafficking in the wake of the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, authorities mentioned.
The coordinated attacks, which killed 130 folks, had a cross-border dimension. Two of the suicide bombers lived in Belgium and German police arrested a man who, according to a newspaper, may possibly have sold the militants their guns.
“We need a European ATF,” stated Jean-Charles Antoine, a researcher at the French Institute of Geopolitics and author of two books on arms trafficking. “Gun trafficking usually turns on the require for guns. And right now terrorists need guns.”
France currently has some of the strictest gun laws in the globe. Automatic weapons are banned, although numerous other guns demand government authorization and a medical exam, along with a permit from a hunting or sport shooting federation.
The public is normally supportive of the laws, despite the fact that their attitudes getting changed dramatically over the decades, stated Paris lawyer Laurent-Franck Lienard. “Thirty years ago, France was a country where every person had guns and it was considered regular,” he mentioned.
The issue with challenging laws, Lienard mentioned, is that “they only apply to these who stick to them.” Illegal weapons are one more matter. Lienard said that Balkan gangsters used to handle the flow of guns in France in the 1990s. Today, there is a huge trade in the theft of legally-held guns.
There are an estimated 15 million legal and illegal guns circulating in France, according to Antoine of the French Institute of Geopolitics. Of those he stated up to 15,000 may be “weapons of war.”
But with comparatively couple of gun crimes compared to countries like the United States, European authorities have paid gun trafficking scant interest. “For the last 20 years we have worked mainly on drugs,” Antoine said.
In a striking coincidence, France’s answer to the issue came on the really day of the Nov. 13 attacks. That morning, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced a national strategy to counter illegal guns, citing worsening gang violence and terrorism. “Terrorists are more effortlessly obtaining the guns they want to carry out their planned attacks,” he said.
The strategy will contain a database to map trafficking networks, modeled following one particular employed for drugs, and a unit to collect intelligence on Balkan-French gun pipelines. It would also give police more powers to perform undercover and track sellers or purchasers on the Internet, he stated at the time.
It is unclear no matter whether further measures are becoming studied in the wake of the attacks. Spokespeople for France’s Interior Ministry and the National Police declined to comment for this report.
Researchers say the challenge with gun-trafficking is gathering intelligence on networks before any attacks.
Nils Duquet, an arms researcher for the Flemish Parliament in Brussels, stated legislators may have to rethink the mandate of Europol, a police agency primarily based in The Hague that supports details exchange in between national police forces. Europol currently does not have the mandate to carry out investigations itself.
“Do we want that, or some kind of European police force set up to deal with transnational difficulties, such as arms trafficking and terrorism?” he asked.
In the U.S., the ATF assists perform this role, enforcing gun laws and targeting illegal trafficking. Designed in 1972, the agency investigated far more than 23,000 firearms situations and performed 360,000 traces last year.
The agency has practically 2,500 unique agents and a price range of $ 1.two billion, a far cry from the resources available in Europe, Antoine stated.
France has a section of police officers inside its organized crime unit assigned to trafficking, as do other European countries, but their numbers are comparatively handful of, he mentioned.
In the speech announcing the plan, Cazeneuve said he would boost maximum penalties for possessing the deadliest guns, from three to 5 years. Lienard, the Paris lawyer, mentioned judges in France rarely give jail terms longer than a single or two years.
“They need to be getting 30 years. They are selling death!” he mentioned.
Deactivated guns could also pose a threat. There are gaps in the law that enable these guns from nations such as Slovakia, which has lax rules on decommissioning, to be sold in France, Antoine stated. These weapons can be very easily reconverted into live fire weapons – a situation that played out for the duration of attacks in Paris last January.
On Nov. 18, the European Commission accelerated proposals to tighten gun laws on the continent, and announced harmonized policies for deactivating guns, to take impact in three months.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung. Extra reporting by Chine Labbé editing by Janet McBride)