UNITED NATIONS – The latest U.N. figures show China, Turkey and the Czech Republic joining the list of the world's top exporters of small arms, which is led by the United States.
Italy joined the list of the top importers of small arms, which is also led by the United States, according to figures for 2011 from the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database released Monday in the annual Small Arms Survey.
According to the U.N. statistics, the value of the global trade in small arms and light weapons almost doubled between 2001 and 2011 — from $2.38 billion to $4.63 billion.
The international trade in small arms ammunition saw the greatest increase followed by pistols and revolvers, sporting rifles and sporting shotguns, the survey reported.
In 2011, the number of countries exporting at least $100 million of small arms annually rose to 14 from 12 in 2010. The exporters' list was led by the United States and followed by Italy, Germany, Brazil, Austria, Switzerland, Israel, Russia, South Korea, Belgium, China, Turkey, Spain and the Czech Republic, the survey reported. Sweden dropped off the list because its exports fell from $132 million in 2010 to $44 million in 2011.
The eight countries that imported at least $100 million of small arms in 2011 were the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, Thailand, United Kingdom, France and Italy, the survey said. South Korea dropped from the list because its imports fell from $130 million in 2010 to $40 million in 2011.
The Small Arms Survey also examined records of more than 140,000 small arms, light weapons and rounds of ammunition taken into custody by police in eight U.S. cities and towns — Albuquerque, New Mexico; Boise, Idaho; Columbus, Ohio; Denham Springs, Louisiana; Houston; Los Angeles; Satellite Beach, Florida; and Washington, DC.
The survey reported that handguns accounted for 77 percent of firearms seized from felons, drug traffickers and gang members, and at least 70 percent of the handguns were semi-automatic pistols. Rifles accounted for less than 12 percent of the weapons seized, and only about half were semi-automatic including assault rifles it said.
Emile LeBrun, a contributing editor to the survey, told a news conference launching the report that the U.S. figures overturn stereotypes in the U.S. media of gang members armed with fully automatic weapons.
The U.S. figures are also the opposite of Mexico's, he said. According to an earlier survey in Mexico, approximately 72 percent of seized weapons there were rifles and other long guns.
The Small Arms Survey is an independent research project located at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. It is supported by the Swiss Foreign Ministry and contributions from 10 countries including the United States and the European Union.