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:
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.
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.