Gun Control Key to Guarding Against Lone-Wolf Terrorism in Europe

Gun Control Key to Guarding Against Lone-Wolf Terrorism in Europe
Soldiers patrol in front of the Sacre Coeur basilica, Paris, Dec. 23, 2015 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

In recent years, the issue of lone-actor or so-called lone-wolf terrorism has risen as a national security priority across Europe following the attacks carried out in Oslo in July 2011 and Toulouse and Montauban in March 2012. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks last November, fears of lone-wolf terrorism have only grown, as officials worry that the self-proclaimed Islamic State and its extensive propaganda may inspire more individuals to carry out acts of violence on the continent.

In September 2014, the Countering Lone Actor Terrorism (CLAT) project, funded by the European Commission and led by the Royal United Services Institute in cooperation with Chatham House, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and Leiden University, was launched to provide quantitative and qualitative analysis on an issue often clouded by uncertainty and fear. Having concluded in late February, the project helps debunk some misconceptions often associated with lone-actor terrorism and offers important policy recommendations, among them the overlooked risks of firearm trafficking and right-wing extremism.

The CLAT project created a near-exhaustive dataset of lone-actor terrorism plots in 30 European countries—the 28 member states of the European Union, plus Norway and Switzerland—between Jan. 1, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2014. These were analyzed along more than 80 variables related to mental health, online activities, and other ideological, political, social and logistical issues. Chatham House’s portion of the study focused on attack methodology and logistics, in particular targets, weapons and lethality, from which five key findings emerged.

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