Dutch criminals may get their bullets on the open market

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Even though gun possession is strictly controlled in the Netherlands, it seems criminals may still get their ammunition via largely legal channels.

In 2012 Marsha de Vries of the University of Twente looked at how criminals procured ammunition in the Netherlands. She found that the police had no evidence that ammunition was smuggled into the country in recent years or that many bullets were stolen from gun dealers, the army and the police: “When a burglary does occur, as in 2009 at a gun shop and shooting club in Amsterdam, firearms are generally the intended target, with ammunition only a secondary consideration. The average arms dealer does not hold large stocks of ammunition.”

Sports shooters in the Netherlands need to be able to show a certificate of good conduct, amongst others, before they can get a gun permit, but beyond that point it is difficult to control what they do with their ammunition once purchased. Unlike the United Kingdom and Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands allow permit holders to buy any amount of ammunition they want. Dutch traders do not register who buys what and sports shooters can spread out their purchases across traders.

De Vries writes:

The storage of firearms and ammunition by individuals is checked by a special department of the Dutch regional police forces. [The] police may, only with the permission of the licensee, check certain specifically defined places in the home of the licensee, i.e. the place where the weapons safe is located. If a sports shooter, hunter or collector states that a verification is inconvenient, a new appointment has to be made, giving him the opportunity to conceal any criminal activity. […]

Experts within and outside the police presume that the illegal trade in ammunition is a highly lucrative criminal activity with high yields and low risks, especially for sports shooters. A sport shooter commented: “It is not difficult to pilfer 2000 cartridges a year”. Another respondent, a former police officer and sports shooter, estimated his potential success on the criminal path even higher, noting: “I could purchase 150,000 to 200,000 cartridges in a week”.

According to De Vries, a short-term solution for making access to ammunition harder would be to introduce an automated registration system for arms dealers.

(Photo by Joe Loong, some rights reserved)

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