Arms Trafficking

A total of 1202 firearms that were owned by the police in South Africa have been stolen or lost between January 2011 and September 2012.

In 2011, a total of 885 police guns were reported stolen or lost.  In 2012, police lost 317 firearms between January and August.

Out of the total firearms missing, 170 firearms have been recovered.

Source:  “‘Police fueling illegal gun trade’,” Independent Online, September 27, 2012.

According to an 2012 issues brief by the Council on Foreign Relations, the financial value of the illegal trafficking of small arms and light weapons is worth $1 Billion a year.

This figure is higher than the previously reported figure of  $170 Million to $320 Million that was reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2010.

Source:  “The Global Regime for Transnational Crime,” Council on Foreign Relations, Issue Brief, July 2, 2012.

The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) reported that over 60,000 guns were seized in Mexico and traced back to being sold in the United States between 2007 and 2011.

The number of guns seized each year is as follows:

2007: 11,842 firearms seized in Mexico and found to have been originally purchased in the United States.

2008:  21,035 firearms.

2009: 14,376 firearms.

2010: 6,404 firearms.

2011: 14,504 firearms.

All of the weapons sent to the ATF by Mexican authorities were believed to have been used in crimes. Many of the guns were found in the possession of drug cartel members.

Source:  Associated Press, “US: Mexico seized 68,000 guns from US since 2006,” Miami Herald, April 26, 2012.


In 2011, authorities in China broke up 69 arms trafficking rings that were operating within the country. 19 cases involved the smuggling of fully assembled guns, while the remaining cases involved ammunition and gun parts.

Many arms traffickers in China use the Internet to move their product. In a three month campaign, Chinese law enforcement monitored webpages, blogs and online forums that eventually led to the seizure of 2,000 firearms and 32,000 bullets.

Source:  “Chinese smugglers use internet for trafficking arms,” Times of India, April 5, 2012.

The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reported on the most common types of guns smuggled into Mexico on behalf of drug traffickers.

The most common guns are the FN-57 pistol, the AR type 223 rifle, and the AK type 7.62 rifle.

Source:  Dane Schiller, “ATF: the favorite guns of Mexican drug cartels,” Houston Chronicle, Narco Confidential, February 7, 2012.

Between 2004 and the latest available figures of 2009, the number of reported firearms stolen in Australia increased by 6 percent every year. In the 2008-2009 time period, 1,570 guns were reported stolen across the country.

Of all the reported theft cases, 40 percent of gun owners were not keeping their firearms in a properly secured location.

Source:  Kathrine Danks, “A black market in stolen firearms,” Daily Telegraph, January 13, 2012.

At the start of 2012, the black market price for an AK-47 increased to $2,100 as the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad continued.

Before the uprising and protests, the cost for an AK-47 in Syria was reported to be $1,200.

In addition to the rise in price for an AK-47, the price for other weapons sold on the black market has risen as well. In March of 2011, a rocket propelled grenade launder was sold for $900, with each grenade selling for $100 a piece. In January 2012, the price for the RPG was $2,000, with each grenade costing $500.

(Prices of guns on the black market.)

Source:  Nicholas Blanford, “As Syria unravels, prices soar for guns, grenades, and RPGs,” Christian Science Monitor, January 9, 2012.

According to author and researcher Andrew Feinstein, 40 percent of all corruption in world trade involves transactions in the global arms trade.

In addition, Transparency International estimates that the effects of corruption within the global defense industry is worth at least $20 Billion a year.

Source: “Q/A: Inside the murky world of arms dealing,” CNN, Security Clearence Blog, December 12, 2011.

Source: “Defence Against Corruption: Diagnosis-Facts and Figures,” Transparency International, accessed: March 7, 2011.

Mexican drug cartels pay “straw purchasers” in the United States up to $500 per gun for buying arms from legitimate gun stores. The straw purchases are U.S. citizens who have a clean record and can pass the criminal background checks. They purchase guns from retail stores and immediately hand over the firearms to drug cartel members.

(Prices of AK-47s and other illegal guns here.)

Source: Chris McGreal, “The US gun smugglers recruited by one of Mexico’s most brutal cartels,” Guardian, December 8, 2011.

An estimated 20 million black market firearms are circulating within Mexico, while 5 million firearms are legally available. This creates a ration of 4 illegal black market guns available for every one legal gun.

(Prices of AK-47s and other guns on the black market.)

Source: Patrick Corcoran, “Mexico Black Market Arms Traffic Finds New Routes,” Insight, November 21, 2011.