In 2015, Elijah E. Cummings said: “ (…) the United States must do more to stem the flow of guns into Mexico. In March, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms reported that more than 100,000 guns were recovered in Mexico and submitted for tracing from 2009 to 2014. Of those, 70% originated in the United States. Guns that are entering Mexico are being trafficked from the United States. This is one reason I am a proud cosponsor of the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act, which is being reintroduced today on a bipartisan basis by our colleague, Congresswoman Maloney. If we can stem illegal gun trafficking in the United States, there is no doubt the positive effects will be seen by our neighbor to the south”. And the truth is that this is not only a threat to America but the rest of the world.
Almost all crime gun researchers agree that diversions from the primary and secondary markets for firearms are a source of crime guns in the United States and can point to examples of gun control policy hurting the supply of crime guns. Beyond endangering safety and public health, the United States’ lax gun laws may adversely impact its neighborhoods, leading to escalating gun trafficking and violence in Mexico and Canada. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), approximately 87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities over 2004–2008 originated in the United States. Weak gun laws contribute to domestic crime and abroad: from 2014 to 2016, across 15 countries in Central America, North America, and the Caribbean, 50,133 guns that originated in the United States of America were recovered as part of criminal investigations.
Several studies on crime guns in the United States suggest that gun control regulations reduce drug trafficking from those states that have enacted them. In 2013, after the Connecticut school massacre, President Barack Obama expressed support for a bill prepared by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California. The bill proposed making background checks universal for all gun buyers, creating a national database to track the movement and sale of firearms, expanding mental health checks, and increasing penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors. For the first time, legislators created a separate criminal offense for drug trafficking with the proposal of the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2013.
One of the gaps in current US law, which fuels domestic and international gun trafficking, is the absence of a federal law that targets gun trafficking. The lack of a specific federal criminal offense for gun trafficking and straw purchasing makes it hard to focus enforcement efforts on those responsible for creating sophisticated chains and channels of gun trafficking. Individuals who facilitate illicit arms trafficking by transferring multiple guns to individuals prohibited from gun possession or through straw purchases are often only able to be prosecuted for a paperwork violation. Even though several bills were introduced in the 115th Congress to address these gaps in the law, including the Gun Trafficking Prevention Act of 2017, the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2017, and the Countering Illegal Firearms Trafficking to Mexico Act, none of them moved in committee or received a hearing.
Illicit flows of conventional arms and light weapons undermine security and the rule of law in the world. They are often a factor behind the forced displacement of civilians and massive human rights violations. Gun trafficking fuels armed conflicts and large-scale wars as means to perpetuate power and promote state destabilization. The global flow of illicit firearms is also linked to human and drug trafficking, making the threat even worse. ”The arms trafficking is well beyond government control because there are many international interests in that,” said General Manuel Bonett, former head of Colombia’s Armed Forces. And how is the UN making a difference?
To promote world peace and stability, the United Nations has highlighted ways to stop weapons flowing into vulnerable regions. The illicit trade and misuse of conventional weapons have been a daily threat to peace, security, and sustainable development. The largest weapon‑producing States should safeguard against the diversion of illicit arms and drug trafficking, including the flourishing of terrorist groups in West Africa and the Sahel. States should implement proper export controls and improve the existing ones. States that manufacture and export conventional arms should work with other nations to ensure adequate control systems. Policymakers should create a universal common regulatory framework on weapons.
The UN has also addressed the global threat of gun trafficking on the deep web and the new challenges that just arose. According to Yuriy Vitrenko (Ukraine), there was an increased link between transnational organized crime, illicit arms trafficking, and terrorism. Firearms used for the Charlie Hebdo attack. According to reports, November 2015 attacks in France originated from a disused arsenal and bought on the internet. The gunman of the Munich Shooting (2016) used the internet to target his victims. He purchased his reactivated pistol on the darknet.
By 2017, less than half of United Nations Member States had joined the Arms Trade Treaty, with the number of States parties in the Asia‑Pacific region remaining low. The UN urged collective effort to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons: unanimously adopting resolution 2370 (2017), the Security Council of the UN reaffirmed its previous decision in resolution 1373 (2001), that all States should refrain from providing any form of support to those involved in terrorist acts, including by eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists.
“The human cost of the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms runs deep,” she said, adding that the increased links among transnational organized crime, illicit small arms trafficking and terrorism, as well as the mounting use of the Internet, including the “dark web”, were of growing concern. Nearly all violent deaths were caused by firearms, and the rate of firearms‑related homicides in post‑conflict societies frequently outnumbered battlefield deaths. Small arms were also key determinants in the lethality and longevity of conflicts, and their rampant spread contributed to violations of international humanitarian and human rights, often playing a role in the deaths of United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian workers. — Report of the UN, 2017.
On the 4th of February of 2019, senior officials debated on mercenary activities in Africa at the Security Council Debate of the United Nations. In general, the delegates. Weak State control over the national territory, gun trafficking, porous borders, and the absence of coordinated measures to counteract their proliferation have only emboldened such groups to operate outside the law. According to Antonio Guterres, mercenaries have committed human rights violations in Africa, suppressing movements along traditional border routes with Cameroon. These guns for hire, who are driven by monetary gains but at times also an ideology, have been used by some States, non-State actors as well as businesses, argued Dian Trianshyah (Indonesia).
According to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of UN, the 16th goal is to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels. The UN is seeking to significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets, and combat all forms of organized crime by encouraging support cooperation through regional and cross-regional meetings and or along specific trafficking routes; including expert participation in Working Group on Firearms meetings and delivering specialized training courses with practical involvement of stakeholders.
Even if there is still much to be done, the UN has done an incredible job to stop global gun trafficking. Several governments agreed on engaging in inter cooperation and assistance, as well in improving national small arms laws, import/export controls, and stockpile management under the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA). In 2005, they also adopted the International Tracing Instrument (ITI), which requires States to ensure that weapons are marked, and officials keep all records. Besides, it also provides a framework for cooperation in weapons tracing. The UN aims to ensure that arms in private ownership do not enter illicit circuits; and do what it takes to guarantee that this is part of the equation for every country.
Interesting fact: In 2018, the UN launched the regional project ‘Gun violence and illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons from a gender perspective’.