Project Overview


In recent years, firearms have become the weapons most frequently used by terrorists in Europe. Most terrorists acquire these firearms on the illicit gun market. Despite this observation, little is known about the networks used by terrorists to acquire firearms, which is part of a larger problem of scarcity of data and in-depth research on illicit firearms trafficking in Europe.

Project SAFTE (Studying the Acquisition of Illicit Firearms by Terrorists in Europe)

This project aims to improve knowledge of and expertise in:

  • illicit firearms markets in the EU
  • the networks used by terrorists to access these markets
  • the policies that have been developed, at national and EU level, aimed at preventing and combatting this phenomenon

This study offers an in-depth analysis of the situation in a selection of EU Member States and focusses on the lessons we can draw from these country studies for EU policy, EU Member States and Third Countries in the EU’s neighbourhood.

Thus, Project SAFTE wishes to contribute to the development of evidence-based policy initiatives for combatting illicit gun markets in Europe.

The main research questions are:

  1. What are the characteristics of illicit firearms markets in the EU?
  2. Who are the main actors involved in these illicit markets? How do terrorists access these markets?
  3. What is the national and EU regulatory framework to combat terrorist access to illicit firearms markets?
  4. What recommendations can be provided to EU policy makers, Member States and Third Countries to reduce and prevent terrorist access to illicit firearms markets?

Learn more about the approach


Research in Project SAFTE is conducted by experts from around Europe, led by the Flemish Peace Institute.

Read more about the research team


January 2017 – March 2018


Project SAFTE has received funding from DG Migration and Home Affairs - European Commission (Internal Security Fund 2014-2020).