Gun homicide has increased in Sweden but not in the rest of Europe

After a long period of decline in gun homicides, this type of homicide started to increase in Sweden from 2005 and has since continued to rise. At the same time, rates of homicide by other means have declined. In many other countries in Europe, there has been a decline in both gun homicide and homicide by other means. These results are presented in a new report from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), which compares gun homicide across Europe since the turn of the millennium.

The Swedish Government has commissioned Brå to study levels and trends for different types of homicide, with a particular focus on gun homicides. This kind of descriptive study cannot answer questions about why there has been increase specifically in Sweden. However, the research points to a number of risk factors that can lead to a surge in homicide rates.

- These factors may include illegal drug markets, criminal gangs or low levels of confidence in the police in certain areas. But these risk factors are also found in other European countries without these having experienced the same trend in gun homicide that we have seen in Sweden, says Klara Hradilova Selin, research analyst at Brå.

Although it is difficult to explain the initial causes of the trend in Sweden, research shows that gun violence can escalate due to a social contagion effect, where one shooting tends to lead to another. It then becomes increasingly easy to resort to weapons, and gun violence is used both offensively and in self-defence.

At the same time, the increase in Sweden is limited to a very specific group – young men involved in criminal milieux in socially disadvantaged areas. In the same way as homicide by other means, levels of family-related gun homicide have declined over the period examined.

To prevent gun homicide, it is important to focus on de-escalation using a combination of both repressive measures and social initiatives. It is also essential to work to prevent recruitment to criminal gangs.

For more information

Klara Hradilova Selin, phone: +46 (0)8-527 58 408, e-mail:

The Stockholm Criminology Symposium

This report is one of about ten other studies regarding gun violence, that is being presented at The Stockholm Criminology Symposium, a digital conference that takes place on June 15-16.