While Europeans decry America’s gun obsession, European gun-makers have no qualms about selling firearms to the US that are tightly regulated at home. It comes as no surprise to discover where those guns pop up.
What links some of the deadliest massacres in US history?
That they were carried out with guns imported from Europe or produced by European-owned companies in the US with firearms that are either heavily regulated or banned in Europe.
The gun used in the June 2016 mass shooting in a gay night club in Orlando that left 49 people dead — at the time the worst massacre in US history — was a Sig Sauer MCX rifle. SigSauer is owned by Germany’s Lüke and Ortmeier Holding Gruppe.
Assault-type weapons like these are either banned or heavily regulated in Germany where they can only be purchased with a special license.
Guns by Austrian arms maker Glock and Germany’s Sig Sauer were used in the December 2012 massacre in a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school that left 28 people dead — until the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, the worst high school shooting in US history.
A Glock gun was also used in the shooting spree inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in July 2012 in which 11 people were killed.
A semiautomatic weapon by the Austrian gun producer again featured in the January 2011 massacre in Tucson, Arizona in which six people were killed and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was seriously injured.
Guns by Italian manufacturer Beretta were used in the April 2009 shooting in an immigration services center that left 14 people dead in Binghamton, New York.
A German Walther and an Austrian Glock gun were used in the June 2007 rampage at Virginia Tech University that left 33 people dead — at the time the worst mass shooting in US history.
European guns swamp US market
All guns used in these mass shootings were bought legally in the US.
This list of European guns featuring in US massacres is not exhaustive, just exemplary.
European gun-makers have doubled their exports into the US civilian market between 2010 and 2016, according to US government data compiled for DW by small arms trade expert Nicholas Marsh of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).
In 2010, European-origin guns accounted for two million of the estimated eight million US civilian gun market.
In 2016, European-origin guns accounted for four million of an estimated 16 million US civilian gun market.
It shows that European gun-makers have kept pace with the market and ratcheted up their sales to Americans accordingly.
While European gun-makers have doubled their exports into the US firearms market in less than a decade in part by marketing guns to Americans that are banned or regulated in their home countries, there has been little public knowledge or discussion about the role of European firearms in America’s gun violence epidemic. “There is no debate about this in Europe really,” said Marsh. Similarly, the significant role of European guns has also not featured in the US debate about gun violence.