[JUST LAUNCHED] Guidelines for Gender Responsive Firearms License Approval and Guidelines for Assessing and Addressing Risks Related to Firearms Misuse in Domestic Violence

The misuse of firearms in domestic violence remains a grave concern in South East Europe (SEE). SEESAC’s analysis documented the persistence of firearm-related domestic violence and its scale. From 2019 to 2022 in the region, more people were killed with firearms in the context of domestic violence (130) than in any other type of incident, including those in the criminal context (120), public disputes (119), and undetermined shootings (110).   

The misuse of firearms in domestic violence disproportionately affects women. 77% of all women killed with firearms in SEE were killed in the domestic violence context, while the same holds for 10% of men killed with firearms. Within the domestic violence context, women were more at risk of firearm use by their current or former intimate partners. Thus, 57% of all women killed with firearms were murdered by their intimate partners.

To address these problems, in 2022, in cooperation with authorities in the region, SEESAC initiated the development of two sets of practical guidelines for police officers and other relevant professionals:

  • Guidelines for Assessing and Addressing Risks Related to Firearms Misuse in Domestic Violence. The Guidelines encompass a set of practical checklists aimed to assist police officers in appropriately assessing the risks of misuse of firearms, both legally and illegally owned, in domestic violence and responding to them with the required urgency. Based on such an approach, the Guidelines provide an overview of actions related to firearms to be undertaken in each step of police proceedings, including high-risk intervention indicators, receiving a report, assessing risks, intervention, and incident aftermath. 
  • Guidelines for Gender-Responsive Firearms License Approval. Through a set of practical checklists, the Guidelines are designed to support professionals in integrating the gender perspective throughout the firearms license approval process. This integration aims to effectively prevent the misuse of firearms in domestic violence and violence against women in particular and prevent the misuse of firearms by groups most at risk of such behaviours, specifically men aged 18-30. Detailed guidance is provided on how to: review an application from the gender perspective, conduct background checks, make informed and gender-responsive decisions, and ensure continuous monitoring of compliance with the legal requirements for the weapon.

Both guidelines were developed through an extensive regional process. Initially, two regional working groups for the development of each guideline were established, one composed of police officers with vast experience in dealing with domestic violence, and another bringing together officers working on firearms license approval, and those conducting background checks.  To inform the development of guidelines, comprehensive region-wide consultations were conducted in the form of focus group discussions with officers dealing with firearms license approval, police officers specifically responding to domestic violence, and women’s organizations providing services to survivors of domestic violence. In total, 15 focus group discussions were organized with 68 police officers and 17 women’s civil society organizations. These focus groups resulted in 15 in-depth reports.

Following the drafting of the guidelines, an additional round of consultations was held with members of the working groups to discuss the structure and content of the guidelines and propose amendments to ensure their practical application. In addition, five women’s organizations were engaged in the peer review process, paying particular attention to ensuring that concerns related to the safety of victims of domestic violence are adequately addressed.

To ensure that guidelines are duly implemented in practice and inform the daily operations of police officers, SEESAC is delivering a regional Training of Trainers to establish a regional pool of trainers to further disseminate knowledge within their institutions.

The guidelines were developed under 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 Commission, Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations, through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II).


Guidelines for Assessing and Addressing Risks Related to Firearms Misuse in Domestic Violence

Guidelines for Gender-Responsive Firearms License Approval