Higher availability of firearms has been connected to higher rates of interpersonal violence in previous studies. Yet, those studies have focused mainly on the United States, or used aggregated international data to study firearm violence. Whether those aggregated findings are applicable to understanding the phenomenon in continental Europe specifically remains unclear. The aim of this systematic review is to bring together all studies that exclusively use European data.
Nine databases were searched, resulting in more than 1900 individual studies. These studies were assessed on relevance and eligibility for this study, based on their title, abstract and full text. Information on study characteristics, operationalizations of main concepts and study results were extracted from the six eligible studies.
Four studies assessed the impact of firearm restrictive regulations on the rate of firearm homicides. Two other studies correlated rates of firearm availability and -violence. Results vary: some studies show a clear decline once availability of firearms is restricted, while others indicate a limited effect on only a very specific subgroup, such as female victims, or national guards with weapons at home. Moreover, studies used various operationalizations for firearm availability, thereby decreasing the comparability of findings.
Empirical research exclusively using European data is still lacking. To increase comparability of future studies, methodological inconsistencies and regional gaps need to be overcome. Assessing how firearm availability can be measured with reliable and valid proxies across countries will be a crucial first step to improve future research on the link between firearms and firearm violence.