Firearms trafficking is enabler and multiplier of violence

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Trafficking in and of firearms is a “grave threat” to human life and international security, the UN crime fighting chief said when launching a new report from her agency shedding light on illicit firearms flows.

The Global Study on Firearms Trafficking 2020 focuses on the serious and “too often hidden” problem of firearms trafficking serving as “an enabler and multiplier of violence and crime in every part of the world,” Ghada Waly, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said.

Making up 39% of the total number of firearms seized worldwide, pistols are the most seized type of firearm globally.

Almost all flows of arms trafficking between regions can be traced back to points in North America, Europe and Western Asia.

As they are often involved in violence, particularly homicides, they are a major security concern.

The report, which provides comprehensive data on firearms trafficking to date is a vital source for law enforcement and policy makers to reduce damage and loss of life stemming from illegal arms flows.

“By shedding light on challenges and on the origin and trafficking routes of firearms, the study can support governments to strengthen law enforcement and criminal justice responses to detect and disrupt illicit flows, dismantle criminal organisations and networks behind the trafficking and bring perpetrators to justice,” Waly said.

Firearm trafficking remains a largely invisible phenomenon, which only emerges once trafficked weapons are used to commit other crime, according to the study.

On average, two-thirds of seized firearms were impounded on the legal grounds of illegal possession.

Additional information related to seizures and tracing, suggest a considerable portion of these firearms may have been illicitly trafficked into a country prior to confiscation.

Data from cities in 81 countries in the study, revealed around 550 000 firearms were seized in 2016 and 2017, with pistols the most commonly trafficked.

This may be explained by the high number of responses received from the Americas, where pistols made up, on average, more than half of all seizures.

In Africa and Asia, at 38 and 37% respectively, shotguns were the most prominent firearms seized and in Oceania, rifles were top at 71%.

Europe appears to be the most heterogeneous in terms of seizures, with pistols accounting for 35%, rifles 27%, and shotguns 22%.

The study shows around the world, 54% of homicides are carried out with a firearm.

Handguns play a significant role in gang and organised crime killings, they are less prominent in murders involving partners or family members.



Countries with higher levels of violent death and homicide – particularly in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean – tend to seize a higher percentage of firearms connected to violent crime, while in Europe, drug trafficking is the most prominent crime linked to illicit weapons.