Pistols are most seized firearm; UNODC  

US see and Increased Deaths by Gunfire

Pistols are world’s most seized type of firearm and America is reported for the most seized firearms overall, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Of the most seized arms on America, pistols constituted more than 50 per cent of the total firearms seized in the region, the UNODC said in its Global study on firearms trafficking 2020.

The report said that a total of 550,000 firearms were seized during each of 2016 and 2017. The data showed wide variations among countries in terms of quantities seized, which ranged from less than ten to more than 300,000.

In the report, he UNODC says that the real global figure for seizures was much higher than 5,50,000, as some countries underreported their seizures for administrative reasons and some did not provide any information, including some of the world’s most populous nations.

Firearms seized

Shotguns were the most prominent type of firearm seized in Asia and Africa. Rifles were the main type of firearm seized in Oceania. Europe saw the equal distribution between pistols, rifles and shotguns, the report said.

He report also mentioned that several countries in Asia and Africa had a lower capacity to intercept and report trafficked firearms, which had led to underreporting of some types of firearms. Moreover, the report said that the total figures reported by countries include seizures which are not directly connected to trafficking.

Pointing out that there were links between trafficking patterns and broader regional contexts, the report said that countries with higher levels of violent deaths and homicide, particularly in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, tend to seize a higher percentage of firearms connected to violent crime. More arms are seized in countries with higher levels of drug trafficking.

Transnational trafficking exists

Most of the firearms are seized within national territories. “Most of the seized weapons are overwhelmingly manufactured outside the country of seizure, but it is likely that the sourcing of firearms found in illicit markets has an important domestic component, such as firearms diverted from licit channels in the country of seizure. There is often little connection to the country of manufacture – a significant proportion of arms seized on incoming shipments have not been transported directly from where they were produced,” the report said.  It said that Northern America was the principal sub region of departure for seized firearms. Europe and Western Asia are also major departure points for illicit flows, it said.

Transnational trafficking is concentrated within continents

Northern America is said to play a major role as departing sub region for other sub regions, particularly south and Central America, as well as Western Asia. Northern America, Europe and Western Asia together accounted for almost all departure points of trafficking in 2016-17, the report said.

It said that Central and South America together with Western Asia accounted for more than 80 per cent of trafficking destinations.

Manufacturing country often unconnected to illicit flow

Europe is said in the report as the main manufacturing region in seizures made across the world. And the most prominent sub region of illicit origin is Northern America. “Firearms are durable goods and their circulation before and after diversion to the black market often involves several transfers.” The UNODC said.

Cross border seizures most common at land crossings; sea shipments bigger

The report noted that traffickers mainly used sea transport for large shipments. Cases of seizures from vessels involved more than five times the number of firearms typically intercepted from other types of transportation, the report said.  However, the report said “trafficking by land remains the most common type of cross-border case, accounting for roughly two thirds of the total. Interceptions from vessels accounted for only around 6 per cent of all customs cases, but 33 per cent of the total number of firearms seized by customs.”

Size of seizure case can reflect the intended use of the firearm

While seizures of small consignments of one or two firearms may be linked to individual use, large seizure is truly reflect to conflicts, the report noted. High powered firearms such as machine guns and submachine guns are not often captured but these rare seizure events generally involve larger quantities. Around one fifth of all customs seizure cases that included machine guns and submachine guns involved such firearms in batches of four or more, it said.

Illicit sellers can compete with licit markets on price

The cost of buying firearms in illicit market is usually higher than buying it in a licit manner. However, the report points out that illicit price were lower than the licit price for handguns in Latin America and the Caribbean. Western Balkans is a potential illicit source of firearms, mainly for assault rifles. Such weapons were far less expensive in the Western Balkans than in the rest of Europe.

Assemblage or convert weapons

Seizures of parts and components are rare compared with seizures of firearms. But Africa and Asia countries tend to have high levels of illicit manufacturing, conversion, reactivation and assembly of firearms.

 Violent crime and drug trafficking

Firearms seizures were related to violent crime, especially in Latin America and Africa. In Europe, drug trafficking was the biggest category. “On average, a larger share of firearms is seized in the context of violent crime in countries with high homicide rates. The same link is shown with drug seizures. In addition, drugs emerge as the most common commodity intercepted in the same seizures as firearms, followed by counterfeit goods, cultural property and natural resources,” the report said.

Homicides carried out using firearms

More than 50 per cent of homicides globally each year are carried out with a firearm. “A rise in the rate of firearms possession in a country often goes together with an increase in the homicide rate. However, the significance of firearms varies depending on the context of the homicide,” the UINODC said. Most homicide victims and perpetrators globally are men, and this tends to be even more pronounced among firearms homicides. When considering homicides of intimate partners and family members, in which most victims are women, men were more likely than women to use a firearm when killing their female partners, while women were more likely than men to resort to a sharp object.


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