Conception and objectives

Project FIRE analyses the illicit trafficking in firearms (ITF) in the 28 European Member States and provides best practices and recommendations to reduce and prevent the crime.

The objectives of Project FIRE


Project FIRE has two objectives:

  1. To assess the availability of data and information on ITF in the 28 EU MS and identify which of these data can be collected by future EU policy initiatives. Data include statistics on turnover and size of illicit market, seizures of illicit firearms, crime and criminal justice statistics related to this crime and gun enabled crimes, information from the web (newspaper articles, inputs from social networks, monitoring of deep web), and case studies (LEAs investigations).
  2. To analyse the ITF in the 28 EU MS using the available data. The research provides information on:
  • The main routes of ITF from, to and within Europe;
  • The main exchange markets for ITF;
  • The actors involved in the crime;
  • The loopholes in the EU regulatory framework that may produce criminal opportunities or a displacement effect towards ITF.


The project will serve as a support tool for law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and prosecutors. It will provide them with:

  • A review of the information already available on ITF;
  • An indication of what could be collected by future EU policy initiatives;
  • A comprehensive analysis of ITF routes, exchange markets and actors at European level, including an innovative analysis of the web as an exchange platform;
  • A crime proofing analysis of the EU regulatory framework with the identification of the vulnerabilities of the EU regulation to ITF;
  • A range of best practices and recommendations to reduce and prevent ITF.


The issues addressed by Project FIRE


  1. The need to collect and harmonize data

Project FIRE addresses the problem of data availability within the EU MS. The improvement of the base of data and information on ITF is necessary to analyse the ITF and to identify the vulnerabilities that facilitate its commission.

In addition, the integration and harmonization of data is crucial to compare the results and to improve the prevention strategies of law enforcement and existing policies, the exchange of information and operational cooperation, both at the national and international level.

  1. The need to understand the ITF in the 28 EU MS

The ITF has been set as a pivot in the Stockholm Programme, and it has been identified by Europol as a key threat in the latest EU SOCTA 2013. The fight against ITF has also been identified for the first time as a priority by EU member states and the Commission for the policy cycle 2014 – 2017 of the Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI). Understanding ITF and its dynamics is crucial to address these priorities and to prevent the crime within the EU.


How Project FIRE addresses these issues


In order to collect and harmonise data and information on ITF in the most comprehensive way possible, Project FIRE adopts a multiple methodological approach using a variety of sources:

  • Hard data on ITF (e.g. data on seizures, crime and criminal justice statistics)
  • Hard data on the legal industry (e.g. data on firearms deposits, arms transfers inside and outside the EU)
  • LEA and judicial sources (e.g. LEAs reports, investigations involving ITF)
  • Institutional reports
  • Academic literature
  • Information from the web (e.g. social networks, specialised websites, online markets)
  • The press
  • EU regulations on firearms trafficking.

These data and information are collected from open sources and university libraries, but also through interviews with experts and direct contacts with EU LEAs, judicial agencies, customs, and national and regional regulatory bodies.

In order to understand the ITF in the 28 EU MS, all the data and information are analysed using a variety of methodologies. Project FIRE develops quantitative and statistical analysis, spatial analysis, content analysis of open sources and information from the web, qualitative analysis of case studies, regulatory and crime proofing analysis of the regulation.


What is the added value of Project FIRE?


Project FIRE leads to a crucial improvement in terms of knowledge about the ITF. It identifies best practices and recommendations that could be adopted at EU level to reduce and prevent ITF. The project will provide tools for use by EU police officers and judicial authorities to gain better understanding of ITF and thus tackle the crime more effectively. They enable EU policy makers to devise regulations more effective in preventing ITF and the legal firearm industry to devise more effective strategies to reduce the illegal use of the legal firearms.


Project FIRE represents a platform for the exchange of data and information on ITF among EU LEAs, judicial authorities and other investigative agencies. It constitutes also a European forum, complementary to the Firearms Expert Group and the European Firearms Experts, in which to implement cooperation and coordination among all actors active in the field. .