INTERNET LAW - Police throughout Europe Fight the Illegal Sale of Weapons Online

Editor, Maricelle Ruiz, IBLS Director – Europe
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European governments are cracking down on the illegal sale of weapons online. The Spanish police recently arrested three individuals who illegally imported into the country parts to assemble firearms and war weapons, while UK police and military officials last year detained individuals trading online weapons banned in that country. The German police investigated whether a youth accused of a school shooting had purchased the crime weapon illegally in a local Internet portal. Other countries and regions have faced similar situations. After detecting illegal gun sales on the Internet earlier in the decade, the United States established an online system to prevent the use of fraudulent documentation when closing these transactions. China sent a judge to prison after discovering that he abused his position to become an illegal arms dealer online.

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European governments are cracking down on the illegal sale of weapons online. The Spanish police recently arrested three individuals who illegally imported into the country parts to assemble firearms and war weapons, while UK police and military officials last year detained individuals trading online weapons banned in that country. The German police investigated whether a youth accused of a school shooting had purchased the crime weapon illegally in a local Internet portal. Other countries and regions have faced similar situations. After detecting illegal gun sales on the Internet earlier in the decade, the United States established an online system to prevent the use of fraudulent documentation when closing these transactions. China sent a judge to prison after discovering that he abused his position to become an illegal arms dealer online.   

 The three Spanish individuals were detained last week with a weapons arsenal, including assault rifles, machine guns, hand grenades, automatic rifles and plenty of ammunition. The three individuals have been described as arm collectors who acquired weapons illegally through the Internet to trade among gun enthusiasts. Spanish police came across these individuals in an Internet forum where they convened to purchase weapons' parts, including parts of arms used in war. Police later confirmed that the individuals would purchase the rest of the parts needed to assemble the weapons. When arrested, the individuals also possessed bullet-proof jackets and radioactivity detectors as well as computer hardware and documentation related to Internet forums on weapons and military paraphernalia.

 The weapons' parts, police officers said, were shipped from the United States and other European countries in packages which in most cases did not include the required content declarations. To purchase weapons abroad, Spanish law requires an import license and declaration of the weapons, which must remain in the custody of the Spanish police until appropriate documentation is approved. The aforementioned individuals have been charged with trafficking and illegal possession of firearms, war weapons, ammunition and explosives. Two of them have been sent to prison, while none has been linked to organized crime or terrorist organizations.  

 The Spanish case is not an isolated incident. Last year, according to The Register, two men were arrested in Kent for allegedly possessing weapons banned under the Firearms Act of the United Kingdom. The officers and officials of the Ministry of Defense came across the individuals as they were investigating the alleged sale of weapons over the Internet. UK officials have also asked auction site eBay to ban the sale of illegal weapons, including stun guns. Also last year, in Germany, Deutsche Welle reports officials investigated whether weapons allegedly used by an 18-year-old in a school shooting had been acquired illegally online. Law enforcement officers believe the perpetrator illegally acquired a gun in a German Internet portal. Although Germany is said to have among the strictest gun control laws in the world, the legislation reportedly does not apply to antique weapons which officials said could have been technically reversed to commit this crime.

 The sale of illegal weapons online has been an issue worldwide for some time now. In the United States, a package delivery company employee reported to police the handing over of weapons to two New Jersey teenagers who were later accused of having purchased the guns online using false documentation. This situation coupled with the existence of some 5,000 sites online where guns could be purchased prompted US law enforcement to develop seven years ago an online system to prevent the use of fraudulent firearms licenses to illegally acquire guns on the Internet. Last year in China, the People's Daily Online reports that a former judge was also arrested for allegedly selling guns and bullets illegally on the Internet. The judge reportedly abused his position to evade security checks at airports and may have been motivated by the high price some weapons command.

Editor, Maricelle Ruiz, IBLS Director – Europe

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