GENEVA - Firearms trafficking poses a “grave threat” to human life and international security, the UN crime fighting chief said on Wednesday, launching a new report from her agency that sheds light on the dangers of illicit firearms flows.
The Global Study on Firearms Trafficking 2020 focuses on the serious and “too often hidden” problem of firearms trafficking that serves as “an enabler and multiplier of violence and crime in every part of the world”, said Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Making up some 39 per cent of the total number of firearms seized worldwide, pistols are the most seized type of firearm globally.
And almost all flows of arms trafficking between regions, can be traced back to points in Northern America, Europe and Western Asia.
As they are often involved in violence, particularly homicides, they are also a major security concern.
Vital tool for governments
The report, which provides the most comprehensive data on firearms trafficking to date, said UNODC, is a vital source for law enforcement and policy makers to help reduce the 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 in strengthening law enforcement and criminal justice responses to detect and disrupt illicit flows, dismantle the criminal organizations and networks responsible, and bring the perpetrators to justice", maintained Ms. Waly.
In the shadows
Firearms 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.
However, additional information related to the seizures and tracing results, suggest that a considerable portion of these firearms may have been illicitly trafficked into the country, prior to their being confiscated.
And only around half of the arms suspected to have been trafficked, were taken on the basis of having been trafficked.
Data from cities in 81 countries in the study, reveals that 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.
Meanwhile, in Africa and Asia, at 38 and 37 per cent respectively, shotguns were the most prominent firearms seized and in Oceania, rifles were top, at 71 per cent.
At the same time, Europe seems to be the most heterogenous in terms of seizures, with pistols accounting for 35 per cent, rifles 27 per cent, and shotguns, 22 per cent.
The study reveals that around the world, 54 per cent of homicides are carried out with a firearm.
And while handguns play a significant role in gang or organized crime killings, they are far 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 among the other forms of crime linked to illicit weapons.