Firearms for sale by illegal weapons traffickers can range from the humble hand gun to a T-72 Russian main battle tank (price $1 to $2 million in 2009), anti-aircraft guns, multiple-launch rocket systems, grenades and assault rifles.
The fact remains, however, that criminals in most cities in the developed world still prefer concealable hand guns.
88% of all murders and violent firearms offences in the U.S.A in 2008 were carried out with handguns (ref: UNODC 2010 Report).
The U.S. market is far and away the largest as regards the number of armed civilians... it comes in at a whopping 270 million weapons. India comes next with 46 million, then China 40 million, Germany 25 million, Brazil and Mexico 15 million, Russian Federation 13 million, U.K. 3 million, Ukraine and Columbia also 3 million (UNODC.)
The UNODC 2010 Report describes "There is a large market in stolen firearms in the US: the FBI received an average of over 274,000 reports of stolen firearms per year between 1985 and 1994, most of which were handguns."
"The Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations have become the leading gun trafficking organizations operating in the southwest United States" (U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms).
The UNODC estimates Mexican drug cartel total membership at around 200,000 members. At least 75% of the drug cartel's weapons are sourced from over the border in the U.S.A. Another source of illegal firearms for sale are the civil war ravaged countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua with left over military stocks.
AssociatedPress, May 6, 2009:
"Deep inside a military warehouse, the evidence of Mexico's war on drug cartels is stacked two stories high: tens of thousands of seized weapons from brutal drug gangs. The AP was given exclusive access to the secure facility."
AssociatedPress, Nov 8, 2008:
"The Mexican Army announced it made the largest seizure of drug-cartel weapons in Mexico's history. Officials say the cache of 540 rifles, 165 grenades, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and 14 sticks of TNT were seized in Reynosa."
In September 2008 the Panama based MV Faina was hijacked by Somali pirates off the coast of East Africa and its Ukrainian crew taken hostage. Governments around the world were shocked when it came to light that the cargo it was carrying might be involved in transnational illegal arms trafficking.
The cargo it was carrying included 33 T-72 Russian main battle tanks, anti aircraft guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers, and small arms ammunition valued at $33 million.
Fearing the shipment might fall into the hands of the local Somali al-Shabaab Islamic terrorist group a fleet of 20 warships from Britain, the U.S.A, Russia, India and China converged upon the area.
After a tense 5 month standoff a ransom was eventually handed over (thought to be $3.2 million) and the ship released.
This incident exposed the problem of tracking firearms for sale on the Black Market. In this instance there were several problems;
"Between 1992 and 1997, approximately US$32 billion worth of military equipment and munitions was stolen (from the Ukraine, former Soviet Union) and illegally sold abroad."(UNODC)
Similar breaches have occurred prior to this.
In 1999, 68 tons of small arms were shipped from the Ukraine and ultimately ended up in Liberia, which was under UN embargo at the time.
And in 2000, 113 tons of small arms (including 10,000 AK-47 type assault rifles) which had been shipped from the Ukraine ended up in West African Cote D'Ivoire, also under UN embargo at the time (ref:UNODC).
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime warns that "Traffickers have found ways of skirting the regulations and moving guns across borders... where commercial gains can have devastating social consequences."
The challenge facing nations around the world is to come together and face head on the threat posed by Illegal Weapons Traffickers and Transnational crime gangs.
"We have nothing to hide"... However, the 33 T-72 Russian tanks ended up in South Sudan soon afterwards despite a UN Security Council arms embargo.
The Internet Revolution, Globalization, and the Global Financial Crisis created the perfect storm... Old Business models are being destroyed and jobs are disappearing offshore at an astonishing rate. Analysts warn that "China and India are poised to out-think us and out-compete us by their sheer numbers" and that "there is no job security now".
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Who Ate My Lunch?