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Illegal weapons on the rise in Belgium

12:58 11/09/2020

Nearly 5,000 firearms – rifles, pistols or small guns - were seized last year, according to Belgium’s Central Weapons Registry (CWR). The 4,848 weapons seized were illegal, deputy prime minister and justice minister Koen Geens announced in response to a written parliamentary question from Belgian MP Kattrin Jadin.  

There is an upward trend, Jadin said, as in 2015 only 2,298 weapons were seized. However, in 2018, the federal police reported 5,850 seized firearms, some 1,000 more than the those seized last year.

Liege-born Jadin said the figures should be considered carefully as the minister did not say how the police was controlling the gun seizures. “Notwithstanding, it is however alarming to see so many illegal arms were in circulation, and that probably far more still are,” the MP emphasised.

But, she added on a positive note: “At least, since 2006, seized firearms are destroyed by the Belgian Banc d’Epreuves des Armes à Feu [firearm testing institution originating as far back as 1614] and will therefore no longer end up in the wrong hands.”

Since its creation nearly 30 years ago, the Registry has recorded 140,000 firearms. It has classified 96,150 weapons as "voluntarily abandoned", 34,220 as "seized" and 9,402 as "voluntarily abandoned after seizure".

The Belgian CWR was set up in 1989 as a data-filing system with information on the ownership and transfer of firearms. Belgium is one of the few countries to have kept a national electronic firearms registry for so long.

The CWR only records information on firearms subject to authorisation or registration: freely obtainable guns are not recorded.

Written by Liz Newmark