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Smaller scale trafficking activities


While large-scale trafficking cases relate to armed conflict situations, the clear majority of intentional deaths through firearms occur in non-conflict settings from criminal activities (Global Burden of Violence, 2015). According to criminological research conducted by UNODC (2015), an important source of illicit trafficking in firearms occurs on a small scale and involves unsophisticated methods, such as a few handguns being smuggled across a border often by car or in buses, with a low number of actors involved.

One good example of this small-scale traffic is the ' ant' trade from the United States to Mexico, where thousands of weapons are trafficked daily across the US-Mexican border through the ant trade modality. Although mostly carried out by individuals who traffic smaller amounts mostly in cars and buses, most of the arms end up in the hands of organized crime groups and drug trafficking cartels on the other side of the border. In fact, according to several studies, most of the guns recovered and identified from Mexican crime scenes are traceable to gun dealers in the United States (Chappell, 2016; Salcedo-Albarán and Santos, 2017).

This situation is, on the one hand, the result of powerful drug trafficking cartels operating in Mexico being in charge of purchasing drugs from the major drug producing countries in the Southern hemisphere, and their onward trafficking and distribution in the streets of the United States. On the other, it results from the disparity in firearms control regimes between these two neighboring countries. In Mexico, for example, the Army is the only legal and authorized gun seller. Criminals and unauthorized persons have to manufacture firearms, purchase them illegally on the black market, or traffic them directly from the United States. In contrast, in 2015, the United States accounted for about 8,827 licensed gun dealers, and this was only in the southern states of Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California (Garrett, 2015; Salcedo-Albarán and Santos, 2017).

Similar patterns of firearms trafficking in small numbers are evident in the Western Balkan countries. Data from several court cases reveal the modus operandi of local traffickers being the use of vehicles with purposely-designed concealed compartments for moving a number of firearms across the border without authorization. For example, in the period of August-November 2017, one citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) travelled three times to Italy using two different vehicles, and delivered four automatic rifles to Napoli (Case No. S12K02516817Ko, 2017). Similarly, in a joint operation between Serbian authorities and law enforcement agencies from BiH, a citizen of BiH was arrested in Serbia on 11 th April 2010 in possession of two " Uzi" automatic rifles found in his car (Case No. S12K00383510Ko, 2010). In both cases, the purpose of the traffickers was to obtain material gains from their activities by selling illegal firearms to members of the criminal world.

Liberal firearms control regimes governing the civilian ownership, possession and sale of firearms on one side, and stiff and restrictive, although not well enforced, firearms control regimes on the other side, can contribute to the illicit demand and supply for these weapons.

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