This module is a resource for lecturers


In this Module, basic themes around firearms are explored. It focuses not only on understanding the basics about firearms, but also on the relevance of proper classification. Since not all arms are the same, states tend to regulate arms and classify them also depending on the legal use that they want to give to those arms, e.g. military arms, hunting arms, civilian arms, or their legal status allowed/permitted or prohibited/restricted arms. The same arm can fall under different categories in different countries, which may create confusion, legal loopholes, issues in identification and registration of arms etc.

Firearms are also differently linked to crime: some have characteristics that make them more appealing for criminals, other less. Understanding these differences can also help interpreting better data and information on seizures, on the overall crime situation.

A good understanding of firearms classification and characteristics, for example the type, models, characteristics and nomenclature of these weapons and their ammunition, will help your students better understand the topics discussed in the other modules in the firearms series, especially in terms of licit and illicit transfers, legislation, regulatory measures, investigation, prosecution and adjudication. For your students following a career in connection with the above-mentioned fields, even basic knowledge on firearms, including definition, classification, firearms parts and components, and various types of ammunition used can have a positive impact on their professional career and achievements. For example, from a legislative perspective, proper identification and classification of firearms can determine its legal status, more precisely if it will be classified as permitted, prohibited or restricted, while from an investigative and prosecutorial point of view, the proper identification of a firearms can determine the legal provisions that apply to each case.

It is true that there are many classifications that respond to different criteria (physical appearance - long and short arms - use, action etc.) but there are also some common features that do not change and that relate to the technical characteristics of a firearm. The Module therefore provides the basic knowledge about firearms, their classification and identification.

Learning outcomes

  • Identify and describe the different types of firearms.
  • Compare the varying definitions, and typologies for weapons used in crime, terrorism etc. such as small arms, firearms, light weapons, military vs. civilian, single shot, semi-automatic and automatic fire.
  • Understand the parts and accessories of a firearm that can influence both their lethality and effectiveness in causing damage.
Next: Key issues
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