As part of the business of organised crime groups (OCGs), firearms are a tool for criminal violence enabling OCGs to leverage other forms of criminality, like gang violence, intimidation, or coercion. Apart from the violence and tension that a high number of firearms in a region creates representing a major human security concern, it also undermines investment, hampering economic growth. Armed violence is known to aggravate poverty and disrupt access to social services, effectively obstructing human development. The 2020 UNODC Global Study on Firearms Trafficking reported that pistols are the world’s most trafficked and seized firearm, making up 39 per cent of the total number of firearms seized worldwide, while most flows of transregional firearms trafficking can be traced back to Northern America, Europe, and Western Asia. With this in mind authorities worldwide are working to counter firearms trafficking, but the techniques criminal groups use are becoming more and more sophisticated. As new trends arise, it is up to law enforcement to keep up, but also foresee and prepare, in order to deliver an adequate response.
The Global Illicit Flows Programme (GIFP) has been promoting international law enforcement and judicial cooperation and assisting countries in the fight against illicit trafficking by delivering courses, trainings, and webinars, and sharing knowledge, intelligence, and know-how. Within the GIFP, the and aim at enhancing targeted countries’ law enforcement and criminal justice systems response capabilities to combat trafficking and illicit proliferation of firearms through a holistic response.
The UNODC Global Firearms Programme organised a webinar on New Trends in Firearms Trafficking. It took place on the 6th of September 2021 within the framework of the GIFP’s Countering Firearms Trafficking project. The event provided insight on the evolution of arms trafficking and emerging trends. Speakers included law enforcement officials from different countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as representatives from Europol, and FRONTEX, each offering their understanding and experience. The event noted the importance of sharing information and know-how, but also taking into account new technologies, such as the darkweb, as well as more unorthodox methods of trafficking firearms, such as regular postal services.
The webinar was divided in five sessions and one case presentation, covering a variety of topics. The trends discussed ranged from the diversion of firearms from legal to illegal markets, to the illegal manufacturing, composition, and assembling of firearms, their parts and components and deactivated, acoustic, blanks, and Flobert firearms. The use of the internet and the darkweb as facilitators for the illegal trafficking in firearms was also discussed, as an increasingly relevant field that law enforcement has limited knowledge on. To complement this, firearms trafficking by post and fast parcels was discussed, focusing on individuals joining online markets where they can easily order firearms and have them delivered at their place of choice, with little suspicion and danger of getting caught.
A session was dedicated on aerial, maritime, and fluvial trafficking routes, and the differences in terms of concealment methods and routes used by private and commercial flights and ships. The webinar ended with a practical case presentation related to 3D Printing of firearms, their parts, and components, a technology increasingly used by organised crime.
The international character of the webinar and the varied topics covered offered the attendees an important range of perspectives, taking into account issues like different legislations around the world and emphasising the importance of international cooperation.