In recent years homicide accounts for over ten times more violent deaths than warfare. Regions affected by high levels of homicide, which are often as violent as war zones, also experience high levels of illicit firearms. Crime is the most important global driver of illicit firearms ownership, use and trafficking. The acquisition of these arms is via purchases from retail shops of lawfully imported or locally produced guns; pilfering from government stocks held by the police and armed forces; and illicit cross-border trafficking. Authorized exports have been increasing to many of these countries.
Hitherto research on illicit trafficking has mainly been conducted via case studies and field work. This important work will be augmented by the systematic collection and analysis of data. Doing so will enable researchers to track global and regional trends (albeit with important caveats about data quality and comprehensiveness), and better understand the economic and political foundations of the illicit arms trade.
Nicholas Marsh is a Research Fellow at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).