How Many Unregistered Guns Circulate in Europe?

Does anyone know?

What’s got me wondering about this is a comment from a friend in Dresden that, during the fall of communism, the lax oversight and crumbling structures meant a lot of weapons quietly melted away and are in attics and basements all around Europe, especially with the open borders that have since been put into effect.

On top of that, two massive world wars fought on European soil must have meant thousands- or even millions of weapons left in fields, carried home by deserters, captured and not reported, etc.

One would think this would lead to a massive number of underground weapons, but we don’t hear that there are. I hear illegal guns are quite difficult to get there.

Anyone know anything about this?

You think people in Europe have stowed away WW1 era weapons? :dubious:

European culture doesn’t fetishize guns, so while it does happen, most people wouldnt even think to squirrel away firearms. And if you found out grandpa took a gun as a trophy during the war, you certainly wouldn’t keep it.

It’s partially the culture and partially the fact that keeping these guns would be illegal in most countries.

Weapons weren’t left in fields by the millions. Someone would get the task to go around and pick up all of the weapons after battles.

If the weapons were your own weapons, they would be sent back for repair or reconditioning. Someone would check out the weapon and see what state it was in. If the soldier was killed and the weapon was just dropped in the mud, it would only need cleaned up and sent back to service. If parts were broken, the broken bits would be replaced. If a weapon was really badly damaged, the remaining good bits might be scavenged to repair other weapons.

If it was an enemy’s weapon, it would be disassembled, just so that no one could pick it up and use it against you. How much it was disassembled would depend on who was doing the disassembly. Taking a typical WWII rifle for example, Soviets tended to take much of the rifle apart, and would put all of the various bits into separate piles. Americans, on the other hand, would just remove the bolt, and would throw the bolt in one pile and the rest of the rifle in another pile. After the war, the Soviets grabbed bits from all of the piles and reassembled them into working rifles. They would often then crudely electro-pencil matching serial numbers on all of the parts to show that they had a working rifle that had been tested. Americans would just grab a rifle from one pile and a bolt from another pile and that’s it, though again, broken rifles could be scavenged until they found enough parts to make a working rifle out of it.

Once all of the various bits were reassembled, the rifles were sold on the surplus market.

I own several WWII rifles. One is a German K98 that has most of its serial numbers matching, except for the bolt, which is mismatched. The rifle was most likely captured by Americans. I also own a Soviet Mosin Nagant that has all matching serial numbers, indicating that it probably wasn’t captured and disassembled. You can tell when Japanese rifles were surrendered because all Japanese rifles have a mum symbol on them. Since this is the symbol of the Emperor, it was considered a disgrace to surrender the rifle with the mum intact. Surrendered Japanese rifles therefore have the mum filed off or significantly defaced so that they did not surrender an intact symbol of their Emperor. I have a Japanese Type 99 with a mostly intact mum, except that it looks like someone took a screwdriver and hammer and dinged it once to try to deface it.

Captured rifles weren’t always just shoved in a warehouse until after the war. Sometimes they would be given to allies who needed weapons.

Was every weapon accounted for? Of course not. But a deserter would probably ditch his service rifle along with his uniform as either of those would get him easily recognized as a deserter.

Some weapons were taken as war trophies, especially pistols since those could be easily hidden. An American soldier could tuck a German Luger pistol into his backpack and no one would notice. Carrying around a captured rifle or a captured officer’s sword would be much more noticeable, but some larger weapons did manage to disappear from battlefields as war trophies.

In any event, there weren’t millions or rifles just left on the battlefield.

Since WW II, numerous buyback-type programs have been implemented every decade or so. In essence, if you have unlicenced firearms in your possession, you can leave them at the police, no questions asked. AFAIK, they have been succesful. Rinse and repeat, and after 80 years there isn’t really much left. The big arms hoards from the end of the war were dug up a couple of generations ago, at the latest.

Today, there are tons of guns in private hands in the Nordic countries, but people generally want to use much newer firearms than the primitive wartime equipment. There is no incentive to take your chances with outdated, unlicenced weaponry. Career criminals are the only segment to do so, for obvious reasons.

Here are some authoritative-sounding outlines of the situation in the UK

There may well be all sorts of concerns about new supplies of guns becoming available to criminals after the collapse of (particularly) Yugoslavia and the subsequent conflicts - but in most other parts of the post-Communist world, the transition was sufficiently orderly for the successor regimes to have fair control over regular military stocks. And different countries in Europe have different laws, practices and gun cultures, affecting both demand for and supply of illegal/unlicensed weapons.

I can only speak for the UK where gun laws are strict and strictly enforced. The law-abiding population is almost universally anti-gun and if they find Granddad’s souvenir in the attic would certainly hand it in. My fathet-in-law liked hunting and owned two shotguns. After he died, my MIL phoned the police station and they sent a bobby round to collect them. Tell the cops that you saw someone with a gun and they pull out all the stops - this applies to replicas as well.

Criminals rarely use firearms during robberies. This is partly because they are extremely unlikely to be threatened by an armed householder and partly because, if they get caught, they will get a much stiffer sentence.

Criminal gang members do carry and use guns, although knives are the weapon de jour. Guns confer status, but they are expensive and hard to come by. There have been cases of gunsmiths re-commissioning weapons that were put out of use but ammunition usually has to be hand-made. I have read that there are people in some of the big cities who will rent you a gun, but this seems to be pretty risky on both sides. Maybe sale-and-return if not used - I am only speculating.

Are there any allowances made for retaining grandda’s souvenir if you could show, without a doubt, that it was made permanently inoperable?

I always wonder about these action movies where the baddies and the good guys are shooting it out all over the streets of Europe. I mean, I don’t think it’s like the USA where you can wander into Walmart and buy a few boxes of armor-piercing ammo. Plus, any hint of automatic or machine gun fire probably brings out the gendarmes and I assume also the military if serious enough? (Not to mention, how did the bad guys get the equipment in from the USA unless they had diplomatic help? The answer to it all is of course… “Hollywood”.

My dad had a old rifle from WWII (probably WWI vintage) that he probably used in his (UK) home guard training or something. He shipped it with his other goods to Canada in the late 50’s, then to South America when on sabbatical, and then back again. I try to imagine anyone doing taht sort of thing today without reams of paperwork. I don’t know when or how it was disposed of, but sometime before he started shuffling between the USA and Canada a few times, I imagine. But then again, I was with him about 1980 when he got pulled over and the police did a quick look in the moving truck, and he strongly suggested they not open the small lead puck with the radioactive symbol on it. (They didn’t) Try that today. Times have changed,

I imagine the same applies to firearms in Europe - In Canada, you have to take courses, get licenses, background checks, have a storage lock-up etc. to have firearms in the house. Unless you really really want guns, not worth the hassle. Fail to comply, and you are looking at serious consequences.

Plus I should add that only in the 1700’s was it valid that a well regulated militia was essential for the security of a free state. Back then, any group with rifles was the match of any army corps with rifles - except for a few horse-drawn slow-firing artillery. Over the last two centuries, armies have acquired hardware the average civilian cannot hope to match on a scale that civilians cannot match, from explosive rounds and breech-load artillery to tanks, antitank weapons, helicopter gunships, smart bombs, and unmanned drones… to name a few. I suspect anyone living near any of the doormats of Europe harbors no illusion that a gun is a means to safety or self-defense, or that armed insurrection is in any way useful. Instead, it becomes an invitation to extermination. The even minorly successful attempts usually had supplies from some military - i.e. in Yugoslavia or Ukraine. The ones without help, like Hungary, were no match.

For the 'Great Nordic Biker War’, wiki thinks several burglaries of Swedish and Danish Army installations were to blame. During the Balkans unrest throughout the 90s-00s, black market, predominantly Eastern Bloc weapons and ordnance would’ve been available to professional criminals like members of outlaw motorcycle gangs. Said gangs, according to a European Police press release in 2012, have:

One side effect of European gun control is that professional criminals who violate those laws, will violate them in a big way, with the use of ordnance like military explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, and belt-fed machine guns. From the wiki on that Nordic Biker War:

I have a P.09 “Luger” and a Sauer 38H that dad brought back, I also have the armory chit and permission to bring back that went with said items. And larger stuff was available but he wasn’t interested in any of them. As to the negative notice to seeing a grunt hauling something a bit larger as long as it didn’t interfere with their duties, their senior NCOs and officers didn’t particularly care. His LT was hauling around an MG42.