Europe, a continent known for the rarity of gun violence, is confronting twin challenges that give the issue sudden urgency: a growing population of radicalized young men determined to strike targets close to home, and a black market awash in high-powered weapons, the Washington Post reports. The problem has been shown vividly by two deadly assaults that each paralyzed a European capital. In Paris and Copenhagen, the attacks were carried out by former small-time criminals turned violent extremists who obtained military-grade illicit weapons with apparent ease. In contrast with the free-firing U.S. Europe is generally seen as a haven from serious gun violence. In Denmark, handguns and semiautomatic rifles are all but banned.
Hunting rifles are legally available in Denmark only to those with squeaky-clean backgrounds who have passed a rigorous exam covering everything from gun safety to the mating habits of wildlife. But if you want an illicit assault rifle, such as the one used by a 22-year-old to rake a Copenhagen cafe with 28 bullets on Saturday, all it takes are a few connections and some cash. European leaders have made tighter controls on weapons trafficking a priority in recent weeks, but officials acknowledge there is no clear solution. The same open-border policies that allow people and goods to flow freely across the continent also make it extremely difficult to crack down on illegal weapons — a fact that arms dealers have been all too eager to exploit.