The Slovenia Times

Weapon possession on increase in Slovenia


The number of licensed gun owners and registered weapons in Slovenia has been increasing in recent years with Interior Ministry data showing that most weapons are licensed for hunting. Concrete estimates about the amount of illegal weapons are not available, but police do not believe the amounts to be very large.

Over the past six years, police have seized 3,641 weapons of various types, mostly cold weapons. To detect illegal weapons and their entry into Slovenia, the police conduct road, rail and air traffic checks and special security campaigns throughout. They assess their work has been successful in this respect.

"Based on the data on illegal weapons seizures in comparison to registered weapons, we estimate the quantities of such weapons are not very large," the General Police Administration wrote in response to questions from the STA in the wake of mass shootings in Serbia.

They assess that the market is not expanding and that the problem of gun ownership and resale remains within the levels seen so far.

Interior Ministry data shows a total of 44,771 weapon owners had 155,853 licensed weapons in 2022, which compares to 39,600 and 127,817, respectively in 2015. The figures only include physical persons, not legal entities.

Most of the weapons, 77,516 were registered by hunters, the number of such owners totalling 19,881 last year. There were also 4,703 owners of a total of 15,506 licensed sports weapons, and 5,334 who legally possessed 5,830 weapons for security. The latter figure was up by almost 700 on the year before.

Transit country for weapon smugglers

Denis Čaleta, a security expert with the Institute for Corporate Security Studies, says it is impossible to give an estimate of how many illegal weapons there are in Slovenia.

Being located on the Balkan transit route, the country is exposed to weapon smugglers and the black market. Decades ago, the main source of illegal weapons were the countries involved in the Balkan wars, while today there is the war in Ukraine bordering the EU. "Every conflict abroad means there will be more illegal weapons in the broader region as well," Čaleta says.

Police say most of the weapons entering Slovenia come from the Western Balkans, while a smaller proportion is stolen from authorised dealers, mainly in Slovenia, Italy and Austria. A significant share comes from perpetrators stealing weapons from individuals who are licensed to possess such weapons.

Slovenia is a transit country in terms of arms smuggling organised by criminal rings. "Most of the weapons are destined for clients in Scandinavian countries, France, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries," the police wrote. More and more illicit arms sales are taking place online.

In Slovenia, the main motives for possessing illegal weapons are affinity to guns, followed by a sense of security, criminal activity and as a status symbol.

Major incident prevented in 2021

The only major incident in Slovenia that could lead to one similar to the Belgrade school shooting was in 2021 when the police, acting on a tip-off from the US law enforcement authorities, apprehended a suspect who had been planning a shooting rampage at public institutions in the north-western region of Gorenjska.

The suspect ordered firearms and ammunition on the dark web, which was sent to his address hidden in a microwave oven. The police seized the weapons and arrested the suspect.

Referring to the incident, Čaleta says that "communication between the law enforcement authorities of different countries works, but it's hard to say that we can stop all the weapons that come through such channels in this way".

Trying to intercept such deliveries is like looking for a needle in a haystack, he says, because there are so many logistic companies and the weapons are made up of parts that are not entirely metal, making them harder for detectors to pick up in mail.

Čaleta has more trust in the European internal market, as the EU has much more restrictive legislation in this area than the US. It is virtually impossible to buy weapons in the EU without a proper licence, and arms dealers cannot afford to abuse the market by reselling legal weapons on the black market. Once you lose your licence, it is virtually impossible to get it back, he says.

But the free movement of goods and the absence of internal borders in the EU also have their drawbacks. "If you were to get a gun illegally anywhere in the EU, there is little chance the security authorities would actually detect it in any kind of checks," he says.

In wake of the Serbia shootings, representatives of the Education Ministry and police decided to temporarily increase police presence in the vicinity of Slovenian schools.


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