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After all, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and other drugs find their way to New York City in generous quantities in the absence of any legal source within the United States—or outside it, for that matter. In fact, New York City's situation with guns is mirrored in Europe, where countries with tight restrictions also find themselves awash in illegal firearms without any clear parallels for the relatively liberal laws of Virginia or South Carolina to blame. Contrary to widely-accepted national myths, public gun ownership is commonplace in most European states. It may appear to some outside observers—especially Americans—that Europeans have blindly surrendered their gun rights Heston, The reality is that the citizens of most European countries are better armed than they realize.
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Regulations tightly control gun ownership in only a few European countries like the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom. In much of the rest of the continent, public officials readily admit that unlicensed owners and unregistered guns greatly outnumber legal ones. Well, says the Small Arms Survey, a research outfit established by the Swiss government, the United Kingdom, with just shy of 1. Belgium, with about , legal firearms, has roughly two million illegal guns.
In Germany, the number is 7. France, says the Survey, has million unlawful firearms in a nation where 2. Even those numbers may understate the case. While the Small Arms Survey report put the number of legal guns in Greece at , and illegal guns at ,, just two years later, the Greek government itself nudged those figures up, just a tad, to one million legal guns and 1.
It's not that governments haven't tried to grab those guns. One government after another has implemented schemes for registration, licensing, and even confiscation. But those programs have met with … less than universal respect. In a white paper on the results of gun control efforts around the world, Gun Control and the Reduction of the Number of Arms , Franz Csaszar, a professor of criminology at the University of Vienna, Austria, wrote, "non-compliance with harsher gun laws is a common event.
Csaszar estimates compliance with Australia's ban on self-loading rifles and pump-action shotguns at 20 percent. And even that underwhelming estimate gives the authorities the benefit of the doubt. Three years after Australia's controversial ban was implemented, when , weapons had been surrendered, Inspector John McCoomb, the head of the state of Queensland's Weapons Licensing Branch, told The Sunday Mail , "About , semi-automatic and automatic SKK and SKS weapons came in from China back in the s as part of a trade deal between the Australian and Chinese governments.
And it was estimated that there were 1. That's about 2 million firearms of just two types in the country. Do the math. Two million illegal firearms of just two types, and only , guns of all types were surrendered …. The Australian Shooters Journal did its own math in a article on the "gun buyback. But maybe success is in the eye of the beholder. After the expected mountains of surrendered weapons failed to manifest themselves, then-Australian Attorney General Darryl Williams's office revised its estimate of total firearms in the country to a number lower than its pre-ban estimate of prohibited firearms, and declared victory.
The situation in other countries was much the same. Canada pulled a similar numerical sleight of hand when the government responded to widespread resistance to a new firearms registration law by dropping its estimate of the number of gun owners from 3. Gary Mauser, a firearms policy expert affiliated with the Fraser Institute, an independent research organization with offices in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, countered with his own estimate that the actual number of gun owners stood at 4.
They weren't disappearing from the Great White North; they just weren't complying with the registration law. Again and again, governments have encountered massive resistance to their efforts to identify gun owners and track gun ownership. Csaszar points out that, after Austria prohibited pump-action shotguns in , only 10, of the estimated 60, such guns in private hands were surrendered or registered. And when Germany imposed gun registration in , he says, owners complied by filing the appropriate paperwork on 3. This was a bit awkward, since estimates of civilian stocks were in the million range.
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The low level of compliance with registration laws gives a good idea of where many of the world's illegal guns come from, but it isn't the whole story. If people are keeping firearms in defiance of their governments' wishes, they obviously want to own guns no matter what the powers-that-be intend. And as has proven true in so many cases, demand usually provides its own supply. In need of the hard cash that black market dealings can provide, and suspicious of state power after decades of heavy-handed rule, Eastern Europe has become a major source for manufacturing and distributing illegal weapons—and of overall defiance of gun restrictions.
In central and eastern Europe, quiet resistance to over 40 years of socialist rule created a pervasive culture of non-cooperation with public authorities. When communism collapsed, leaving power to be inherited by weak and disorganized democratic regimes, innumerable opportunities arose for people to acquire and hide personal guns. It is no wonder that in much of the region registered guns appear to be the exception. If skepticism toward the wisdom of disarming at the request of the current pack of politicians drives the supply side of the equation in the East, it may also explain demand in the West.
After all, within living memory, most of Europe has been under the control of one nasty regime or another, whether home-grown or imposed from outside. Communist governments were the last to fall, but as recently as the early s, Greece, Portugal and Spain suffered under dictatorships. Whether or not that's the explanation for mass resistance to gun laws in Europe, there's no doubt that the black market is thriving. Drawing from Hungarian media reports, World Press Review reported in July that the Odessa mafia had shipped 13, tons of guns to Croatia and Bosnia.
That impressive shipment included 30, Kalashnikovs, remote-controlled ground missiles, 50 launching stands, and 10, antitank missiles. A black market that can supply embargoed armies with missiles has no difficulty feeding the civilian appetite for pistols and rifles.
Underground suppliers aren't always so large-scale, of course. Their operation was apparently sufficiently sophisticated that the smugglers prepared a catalog that included photos and descriptions of available wares. In an example of the convergence of underground markets, one of the soldiers admitted during his court martial to accepting cocaine as payment for the guns. He then sold the drugs for additional profit. Such connections can be found elsewhere in the world, too.
Flush with money made satisfying Americans' appetite for intoxicants out of favor with U. While popular mythology blames the flow of guns to Mexico on purchases in America's legal weapons markets Mexico has tight restrictions on private firearms ownership, including outright bans on guns in calibers used by the military , the gangs have increasingly fielded grenades, rockets and machine guns—firepower unavailable in the average Texas gun shop.
But such weaponry is available from underground dealers.
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Says the Los Angeles Times :. These groups appear to be taking advantage of a robust global black market and porous borders, especially between Mexico and Guatemala.
Some of the weapons are left over from the wars that the United States helped fight in Central America, U. That the black market in guns flows freely into the black market for drugs—or other illicit goods and services—should come as no surprise.
Csaszar emphasizes that this convergence between illegal markets is to be expected. Viewed from the side of the illegal arms buyers this integration of markets will happen only with a very tiny fraction, namely those individuals already involved in other criminal business.
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For the great majority it will remain an isolated breach of a gun law only. However, viewed at a general level from the provider side there can be no doubt of the worldwide integration of drugs and arms markets. So, by imposing restrictions on one type of product, governments have driven people to the black market where all forbidden products and services are available, and likely increased the wealth and power of active sellers in that market.
If you were trying to enrich and empower the folks who thrive beyond the reaches of polite society, you couldn't come up with a better plan. Hmmm … but those guns come from somewhere , right? Before black marketeers turn them into illicit commodities to be sold alongside cocaine and tax-free cigarettes, they have to be manufactured.go here
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So, what about putting tighter controls on the companies that make these killing machines and cutting off the supply? In , Suroosh Alvi, a co-founder of Vice magazine, pulled a few family strings in Pakistan to gain access to the turbulent Northwest Frontier Province. Specifically, he wanted to see the gun markets that are feeding a steady supply of arms to Afghanistan. More specifically, he wanted to see just how modern firearms were being cranked out in wholesale lots under the most primitive conditions imaginable. His opening comment in the resulting video documentary—"I've seen kids making guns with their bare hands in caves"—only barely overstates what he presents.
Thousands of 9mm pistols, knock-off AKs, machine guns, and anything else you can imagine are manufactured there over wood fires with hand tools—and so is the ammunition to match. Pakistan isn't alone. The Virgin Suicides was full of visual paradox: plastic bangles adorning botched suicide—scarred wrists; a cherubic face floating in a bathtub full of blood; a gaggle of year-old, chain- smoking blondes. Then I realized it was probably from [style blogger and magazine editor] Tavi being into it.
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