Criminal gangs hike up demand for firearms

Illegal weapon imports and shootings are on the rise in Sweden as the demand for firearms grows in criminal circles.

Swedish police and customs seize around 1,000 firearms every year and nobody knows how many illegal weapons are currently circulating in the country.

The findings were outlined in a report by the National Police Board and Swedish Customs that was handed over to the Minister for Home Affairs, Anders Ygeman, Tuesday.

Ygeman described the import of illegal firearms into Sweden as a "serious social problem" and said different authorities must work together to fight crime.

In the spring of 2011, the previous centre-right coalition government gave the National Police Board and Swedish Customs the task of decreasing the import of illegal weapons into Sweden. However, large quantities of weapons are still smuggled into the country and in recent years there have been several reports of gang shootouts in public places, especially in the cities, news agency TT reported.

Police say that criminals have greater access to weapons today and that they also use those weapons to a larger extent than before as there are intensifying conflicts between rivalling criminal networks and gangs.

"We take the increasing use of weapons in criminal circles very seriously. It significantly affects safety and security in our society," Henrik Malmquist, head of the National Bureau of Investigation, said.

While there is reportedly an increase in demand for firearms, availability is thought to be lower than the demand, according to TT.

Many of the weapons confiscated in the past few years were found during hose raids. The police force has not seen a significant increase in confiscations - there were around 850 last year and that number is only expected to grow slightly this year. Customs, however, have seized 73 firearms so far this year, compared to 55 in total in 2013.