Britons and Europeans Increasingly Arming Themselves Against Terrorists

Jan. 9, 2019
by Bob Adelmann

Al Capone famously said this about his liquor business: “I am like any other businessman. All I do is supply a demand.” The rule is expanded: when the demand is sufficiently high, supply will come from somewhere. The price will go up, providing additional incentive to businessmen like Capone to make sure his customers are taken care of.

The demand for personal, privately-owned firearms in Great Britain and Europe has gone up recently, thanks not only to the recent terrorist attack at the Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg last month but also the pronouncement by a major think tank that those attacks are likely to continue. But restrictive gun laws have crimped supply, causing prices citizens are willing to pay to rise. As another famous capitalist once said: if interest rates rise high enough, capital will be drawn from the moon.

Nine days after the Strasbourg Christmas market attack where an Islamic terrorist killed five and wounded 11, a Washington think tank reported that similar attacks were likely to continue. The terrorist, Cherif Chekatt (who was killed in a subsequent shootout with police), had previously pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, declared that European citizens would face a continuing “significant threat” of similar attacks: “The threat of attacks from groups like the Islamic State and al Qaeda to … the United Kingdom and France is at one of the highest levels [since the 9/11 attacks],” adding that the number of such attacks – foiled, failed, and successful – surged more than 700 percent between 2007 and 2017.

This has put the average citizen living in Great Britain and Europe in a desperate quandary: with highly restrictive gun laws and a growing sense that local police can’t protect them from such attacks, many are turning to themselves for safety. Personal responsibility has (in spite of those gun laws, some of which require a year of supervised training as well as psychological testing), resulted in the ownership and use of personal firearms growing rapidly. As the Wall Street Journal noted, “gun ownership is rising across Europe … spurred by insecurity arising from terrorist attacks, many with firearms.”


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This is a welcome turn of events. Instead of increasingly relying on government for everything, including personal safety, individuals are looking to themselves for their safety. And private gun ownership is growing, despite restrictive gun laws, not just in England and in Europe but worldwide as well.

Private ownership of firearms worldwide rose by 32 percent in the decade through 2017, according to the Small Arms Survey, an independent research project located in Geneva, Switzerland. In Europe, that ownership has been equally rapid, despite the difficulty of obtaining permits to own them.

As the demand has grown, so has the supply, mostly through the “deep web,” otherwise known as the “dark web,” the “invisible web” or the “hidden web.” This is the part of the internet that is off limits to traditional search engines, where illicit trading takes place at such locations as the infamous drug bazaar called Silk Road. According to Rand Corporation, “Europe represents the largest market for arms trade on the dark web, generating revenues that are around five times higher than the U.S.” Since America’s gun industry generates in excess of $15 billion in annual sales, the dark web is responsible for upwards of $75 billion in firearms sales annually in Europe, as citizens increasingly look to themselves for their personal safety.

The flood of illicit (that is to say, non-government-approved) firearms is exploding, with Small Arms Survey estimating there are nearly a billion firearms held in private hands – nearly 100 million of them in Europe. Those numbers are increasing, to the consternation of the anti-gun media such as the British tabloid Daily Mail. It expressed concern over the number of those firearms that are flooding into the country despite the best efforts of local police to keep them out. The head of Britain’s task force for serious and organized crime, Chief Constable Andy Cooke, told Daily Mail that the number of firearms rose significantly in 2018 and “will continue to go up in 2019.”

Cooke is doing all he can to stop the flow, but his efforts are puny compared to the supply demanded by citizens increasingly concerned over their personal safety: “We are doing all we can. We are not in a position to stop it any time soon … the problem is such that despite a number of excellent firearms seizures, I expect the rise in supply to be a continuing issue.”

This is welcome news. Not only is violent crime likely to drop, as criminals will no longer face defenseless victims, but the resurgence in personal responsibility is likely to be ameliorative to the culture as well. Criminals will increasingly face the existential question when targeting a potentially armed citizen, while terrorists who have already answered that question will find their lives being ended with “extreme prejudice” by newly armed private citizens long before they can complete their missions.

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Sources:

Quote from Al Capone

The Wall Street Journal: Gun Use Surges in Europe, Where Firearms Are Rare

The Wall Street Journal: Europe Faces Continuing Terror Threat, While Concerns in U.S. Ebb, Study Finds

The Wall Street Journal: Gunman in Strasbourg Kills Three People Near Christmas Market

DailyMail.co.uk: Guns smuggled from Eastern Europe and the Balkans are fueling dramatic rise in illegal weapons on UK streets, top police chief warns

Background on Small Arms Survey

Background on Dark Web

Background on Darknet

Background on Deep Web

The 2018 Strasbourg attack

Background on the Center for Strategic and International Studies

CNBC.com: America’s Gun Business, By the Numbers

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