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Fact and figures: Global trade in small arms

Global facts and figures relating to the production and trading of light weapons as talks on arms treaty begin at UN.
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2013 12:35
Seven of the top 10 arms producing companies are based in the US [Reuters]

Diplomats from around the world have gathered at the UN for talks on an international arms trade treaty, in an effort to stop the sale of illegal conventional arms.

Similar talks held last July failed, mainly due to the objections of the US and Russia, the world's two largest arms exporters.

Al Jazeera has compiled a list of facts related to the global production and trading of small arms.

1. Authorised international transfers of small arms, light weapons, their parts, accessories, and ammunition are estimated to be worth at least $8.5bn annually.

2. More than 1,000 companies in about 100 countries are involved in some aspect of small arms production, with significant producers in about 30 countries. Conservative estimates mention 7.5 to 8 million small arms being produced per year.

3. In 2008, the top exporters of small arms and light weapons (those with annual exports of at least $100m),
according to available customs data, were (in descending order) the US, Italy, Germany, Brazil, Switzerland,
Israel, Austria, South Korea, Belgium, the Russian Federation, Spain, Turkey, Norway, and Canada

4. In 2008, the top importers of small arms and light weapons (those with annual imports of at least $100m),
according to available customs data, were (in descending order) the US, Canada, Britain, Germany, Australia, France, and Pakistan.

5. Seven of the top 10 arms producing companies in the world are based in the US. Italy, Britain and France also have some of the largest maufacturers.

6. The annual trade in light weapons is estimated to be $1.1bn. This includes $755m for anti-tank guided weapons, $102m for man-portable air defence systems, and $257m for four types of non-guided light weapons.

7. Private security companies (PSC) hold between 1.7 and 3.7 million firearms worldwide, an estimate based on extrapolations from reported inventories. If undeclared, and illegally held, weapons were to be included, the global PSC stockpile would be far higher. 

Globally, PSC firearm holdings are just a fraction of the stockpiles held by law enforcement agencies (26 million) and armed forces (200 million).

8. The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world - an average of 88 per 100 people. Yemen has the next highest ownership rate, but is a distant second with 54.8 guns per 100 people

9. Despite the above, the US does not have the worst firearm murder rate - with Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica all higher. The US is ranked 28, with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people.

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