Western Balkan Authorities to Make Firearms Licensing Gender Sensitive

With the support of the European Union, SEESAC is organising the first meeting of the Regional Working Group for the Development of a Tool for Gender Sensitive Firearms License Approval in Tirana on 30 November and 1 December 2022. The working group is composed of fifteen representatives of authorities from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, and North Macedonia and it will enable strengthening of institutional capacities for effective prevention and combatting of the use of firearms in domestic violence.

In 2021, SEESAC conducted a large-scale gender analysis of small arms control legislation and policies in the Western Balkans to assess and enhance their gender responsiveness. The analysis documented noticeable efforts undertaken across the region to ensure that laws on weapons prevent the use of firearms in the context of domestic violence. However, the analysis also identified specific gaps in operational responses which need to be adequately addressed in order to reduce the likelihood that firearms are misused in domestic violence. This includes the necessity to further improve firearm license approval, including background checks.

During the two-day meeting, the authorities will increase their understanding of key challenges in firearm license approval procedures regarding the prevention of the misuse of firearms in domestic violence and address other gender-related concerns.

They will also actively participate in the development of a tool for gender-sensitive firearm license approval to ensure that license-issuing procedures fully consider domestic and intimate partner violence, as well as other gender aspects of firearms.

The meeting was organised in the framework of the regional project Support for Enhancing the Fight Against the Illegal Possession, Misuse, and Trafficking of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in the Western Balkans funded by the European Union through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II).


What are the main challenges related to domestic violence during firearms license approval?

  1. Most domestic violence goes unreported to institutions, which place particular importance on background checks/security vetting as a potentially effective tool for preventing firearm misuse in the context of domestic violence.  
  2. Background checks are often conducted primarily on the basis of the official records kept by relevant institutions. In practice, it is not mandated to conduct interviews with current and former partners and other family members, including neighbours, which could provide insight into whether the acquisition of firearms would place an intimate partner or child in reasonable fear or danger of the use of firearms in any form of domestic violence.
  3. Relevant procedures do not provide firm and comprehensive guidance on the assessment as to whether firearms could be misused in a domestic violence context unless it has been reported.
  4. Law on Weapons and associated bylaws do not contain specific provisions that legally prescribe the obligation of a competent institution to notify the spouse or close family member(s) during the process of an applicant’s seeking to obtain a license.
  5. Decisions on an issued temporary restraining order for the prevention of acts of domestic violence are often not explicitly prescribed as part of the requirements for security vetting.
  6. In addition, firearms data-keeping practices do not necessarily provide for sex-disaggregated data nor substantial information on the misuse of firearms in domestic violence which hinders the development of gender-responsive solutions.


*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of the Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).