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There has been another shooting in the U.S., this time at a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb, which left six people dead and scores more wounded. Just one day before, Europe too was rocked by gun violence as a man killed three people and injured four more at a shopping center in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

While shootings are far less common in Europe, they do still take place occasionally. According to the latest available data by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), Albania saw the worst rates of gun violence in 2019 with 1.39 gun violence deaths that year per 100,000 people. This was followed by Montenegro at a rate of 0.99 deaths and North Macedonia at 0.98 deaths. While these figures are high by European standards, they were significantly lower than the rate of 4.12 deaths per 100,000 population, which was found in the U.S. As the IHME data shows, EU Member States have seen lower rates of firearm homicides than many other regions worldwide.

Lethal gun violence peaked in the European Union in the 1990s, and saw a downward turn between the year 2,000 and 2012, according to Project TARGET, a landmark report by the Flemish Peace Institute. The paper notes that the rates stopped declining around this time, afterwards remaining fairly level in certain cases and starting to rise in others. 

The report writers identify two pressing issues when it comes to guns in Europe, the first being the 3-D printing of firearms, and the second, the Dark Web. 3-D printing has contributed to the creation of ‘ghost guns’, and according to Project TARGET, in some cases has been connected to right-wing extremism. The Darkweb, on the other hand, throws up challenges of monitoring and tracing the online purchase of firearms. For these two reasons, access to firearms is made easier in the region, including for those who do not have criminal connections. The authors of the report conclude: “The multifaceted phenomenon of firearm trafficking thus impacts gun violence in various ways. Its impact is most clearly apparent in the criminal contexts where increased availability of firearms can rapidly and drastically alter the peaceful course of a country.”

The Netherlands and Sweden are two European countries that, according to the report, have seen a change in firearm violence related to criminal activities in recent years, citing the shooting of journalist Peter R Vries in the middle of Amsterdam on July 15, 2021, as one such case.

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