Jerzy Kasprzak, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Poland

Correspondence: University of Bialystok, ul. M. Skłodowskiej-Curie 14, 15-097 Białystok, Poland. E-mail: jerzy.kasprzak1@wp.p

The article presents the problem of the scale of illegal possession of arms in Poland in the years 2000–2011 and the results of detailed studies of acts (made on a representative sample) of the perpetrators of this crime and the motives for their actions. It is believed that the offence of illegal possession of arms in Poland has its own characteristics. On the quantitative scale it represented only about 0.25% of all matters pending prosecution and did not comprehensively threaten society. In this respect, the situation in Poland is completely different from the scale of illegal possession of firearms in the United States or in the countries of Latin America. Contrary to what the media present, only a small portion of illegally held weapons are used to commit crimes such as murder or robbery. The vast majority of pending criminal proceedings for illegal possession of weapons apply to gas weapons or military collectors, who often do not consciously come into possession of old military weapons or ammunition. As many as about 25% of initiated criminal proceedings are discontinued, as the appointed expert decides that the item in question is not a firearm. However estimates, indicating that in Poland there are between 300 000 and 500 000 illegally possessed weapons in Poland, have raised anxiety.