The number of arrests for gun crimes in Sweden has dramatically increased since 2017 from 64 to 340 arrests last year, with over 1,300 weapons seized in 2020.
The increase in the number of gun crime arrests is partially due to the tightening of Sweden’s gun laws in 2018, which also increased the minimum sentence for serious gun crime from one year in prison to two years.
According to Johan Gustafsson of the Swedish police’s National Operations Department (NOA), the arrests have taken violent criminals off the street, but shootings still remain high.
“There are many shootings anyway, but the question is how many shootings would there have been if this legislation had not existed?” Mr Gustafsson told broadcaster SVT.
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Police say they are seizing more firearms than in the past as well, with a total of 1,305 weapons seized in 2020, 142 found by customs officials.
“There is no great stream of arms smuggling, but the few times it happens, it has very serious consequences,” Stefan Granat, the deputy head of Customs Unit Stockholm, said.
“I think that both customs and police need to strengthen their intelligence on who wants weapons and who is bringing in weapons so that we can direct our checks at those people,” Mr Granat added.
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According to a 2020 report by SVT, many of the imported firearms are blank guns that can be converted into live-fire firearms and can be bought legally overseas in other European Union member states.
Lars Kristoffersson, Head of Law Enforcement at the Swedish Customs Agency, told the broadcaster blank guns were becoming increasingly popular with gangs, in particular, and that they were not more difficult for customs officials to find but easier for gangs to acquire.
Despite a high number of arrests for gun crime, Sweden has seen a surge in fatal shootings, and a report earlier this year revealed that the country had one of the worst rates for deadly gun violence in Europe.
“The increase reported by Sweden cannot be seen anywhere else in Europe. Sweden has moved from the bottom to the top in Europe’s statistics,” Crime Prevention Council Klara Hradilova-Selin said.
Police Commissioner Erik Nord, who heads the police in the Greater Gothenburg region, stated following the release of the report that the trend of fatal shootings was linked to mass migration.
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“It is no longer a secret today that much of the problem of gang and network crime with the shootings and explosions have been linked to migration to Sweden in recent decades,” he said.
“When, like me, you have the opportunity to follow matters at the individual level, you see that virtually everyone who shoots or is shot in gang conflicts originates from the Balkans, the Middle East, North or East Africa,” Nord added.