In our society, plenty of people and organisations use firearms. Soldiers and police officers require them for defence and law enforcement purposes, security officers use them, among others, to guard transports of valuables, hunters and marksmen use them for recreational purposes. Criminals and terrorists, however, also use firearms. Moreover, firearms can be abused in the context of domestic violence or shootings in the public sphere. Although firearms constitute a form of protection or are used for leisure by some people, crime, armed violence and human rights violations mean that there are inherent risks in the trade and possession of firearms.
That is why the government regulates the arms trade and the use of firearms. The regulation covers legal forms of possession, use and trade, but it also aims to combat the illegal trade and misuse. In Belgium, various governments are involved in the regulation of firearms. The arms act that regulates the possession and use of firearms is a federal act. Flanders has the competence for the control of imports and exports of firearms and for hunting and shooting sports. The Flemish Peace Institute studies the various aspects of the firearms issue, to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon and provide scientific insights to policymakers. The institute, among others, focuses on the Flemish, federal and international regulations and the impact of small arms and light weapons on societies. The Flemish Peace Institute also studies the dynamics of the illegal arms trade and the ways in which criminals and terrorists acquire weapons in Europe.