Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

Arms trafficking

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Arms trafficking

Arms trafficking, also known as gunrunning, is the trafficking of contraband weapons and ammunition. What constitutes legal trade in firearms varies widely, depending on local and national laws.


The 1999 Report of the UN Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms provides a more refined and precise definition, which has become internationally accepted. This distinguishes between small arms (revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, submachine guns, assault rifles, and light machine guns), which are weapons designed for personal use, and light weapons (heavy machine guns, hand-held under-barrel and mounted grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft guns, portable anti-tanks guns, recoilless rifles, portable launchers of anti-aircraft missile systems, and mortars of calibres less than 100 mm), which are designed for use by several persons serving as a unit. Ammunition and explosives also form an integral part of small arms and light weapons used in conflict.


Although arms trafficking is widespread in regions of political turmoil, it is not limited to such areas, and for example, in South Asia, an estimated 63 million guns have been trafficked into India and Pakistan.

The suppression of gunrunning is one of the areas of increasing interest in the context of international law. Examples of past and current gunrunning include:

  • Iran–Contra affair
  • Larne gun-running
  • Provisional Irish Republican Army arms importation
  • In the United States, the term "Iron Pipeline" is sometimes used to describe Interstate Highway 95 and its connector highways as a corridor for arms trafficking into New York City.

    Market value

    The total value of the global arms market is estimated around $60 billion a year, with around $8 billion attributed to pistols, rifles, machine guns, and bullets. The total illegal arms trade is harder to estimate, but the illicit small arms market has been estimated at 10-20% of the total global arms trade.

    Notable arms dealers

  • Monzer al-Kassar
  • Pierre Beaumarchais
  • Viktor Bout
  • Samuel Cummings
  • Adnan Khashoggi
  • Leonid Minin
  • Sarkis Soghanalian
  • Dale Stoffel
  • Arcadi Gaydamak
  • Film

  • Lord of War (2005), a fictional crime war film in which Nicolas Cage plays an illegal arms dealer similar to the post-Soviet arms dealer Viktor Bout; the film was endorsed by Amnesty International for highlighting the arms trafficking by the international arms industry
  • Making a Killing: Inside the International Arms Trade (2006), a 15-minute documentary included in the two-Disc Special Edition DVD of Lord of War (2005). Numerous other documentaries about arms trafficking are linked on this film's YouTube page.
  • Television

  • Sons of Anarchy, a FX-TV series about a fictional outlaw motorcycle club whose main source of income is trafficking arms to a variety of criminal enterprises domestically and internationally.
  • Jormungand, an anime television series based on the manga series by Keitarō Takahashi, produced by White Fox, which addresses the issue of arms trafficking in the Middle East and throughout the European continent.
  • The Night Manager, a BBC miniseries where a former British soldier who is currently a night manager in hotels infiltrates the inner circle of an arms dealer.
  • Video Games

  • In the Grand Theft Auto game series, the player gains access to weaponry through illegal arms trading. In Grand Theft Auto V, all arms (both legal and illegal) are available through the Ammunation gun stores.
  • References

    Arms trafficking Wikipedia