According to a national threat assessment report published by the Dutch police on June 1, the illegal trade of weapons on the darknet is increased, along with the use of automatic firearms among criminals in the Netherlands.

A separate report conducted in May confirms the findings of the current study. In the previous research, it was claimed that it is easier to acquire a rifle than a handgun in the Netherlands. Researchers say, based on the police figures showing the number of seized machine guns was above 200 in 2014, the Netherlands is a hub in a network of international weapon smugglers.

The current study said heavy automatic weapons had long been used for killings in the drug scene, but they also gained ground elsewhere. In the past year, heavy weapons were used for robbing a jewelry store, firing up a coffee shop, but criminals even used assault rifles for extortion attempts. Dick Schouten, portfolio manager for tackling the illegal weapon trade at the Dutch police said that the current development of the firearm scene is presenting a danger to both the citizens and the police. The official worries that the use of such heavy weaponry can result in the death of innocent people. He added that criminals can also use assault rifles to “keep the police at bay”.

According to data published by the police, there is a heavy arms race going on between narcotic gangs in the Netherlands. In a tight market, they the criminals do not want to fall behind their competitors, so they arm themselves with heavy weapons, the study said. It is reported that professional and higher-ranking criminals are equipping themselves with bulletproof vests and armored cars. The study reported that target hardening is a new phenomenon in the country. Therefore, for “successful liquidations” the criminals need more firepower.

“[On the dark web] You will find variants of marketplaces where the greatest mystery is the weaponry sale, sent via parcel post. Traders could take advantage of the open borders within the European Union, Schouten said. The police official added that the Netherlands experienced an increased use of the dark web regarding weapon sales.

The researchers discovered another trend. According to them, the weapons are increasingly being sent in parts from multiple countries. The study brought up Glock pistols as an example. The report shows that the slide for the handguns comes from the United States, while the other parts are sent from Austria. After the criminals had received all the parts for the Glock pistols, they simply assemble the guns in the Netherlands.

The researchers reported that in the recent years, most weapons in Europe came from Slovakia. Because of an inadequate legislation that makes it possible to disable weapons through a simple procedure, arms dealers can sell the firearms legally. When the criminals buy the arms, they know how to reassemble them.

According to the report, a sole weapon vendor is Slovakia sold approximately 10,000 disabled firearms legally. Of these, more than 200 found was found in the Netherlands, mainly involving automatic weapons. To avoid such loopholes in the law, Schouten calls for a unified legislation in the European Union.

A report from researcher organization TransCrime mentioned the Netherlands as one of the main target countries for illegal firearms. Schouten confirmed this statement, saying that every year, the police seizes about 8,000 weapons in the country. The police official added that Spain, Slovakia, Ireland, and Italy are closely followed by the Netherlands on the list of the countries within the European Union where the most weapons are seized.

According to information provided by the Dutch police, in the past year, there have been 3,500 registered incidents involving firearms. This is a decrease of 400 cases compared to 2015, however, in Rotterdam and Utrecht, this number had increased from 2015 to 2016.

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