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In the News

XVIPanamericanos
Marking represents a fundamental step in the fight against weapons smuggling
By SSM / OAS

Firearms marking represent a very important step in the fight against the illicit trafficking of firearms in the region, said Florencia Raskovan, a specialist in the Department of Public Security at the OAS, in an interview with Colombian TV channel NTN 24 conducted on August 29, 2011 in Washington D.C.

Below is an excerpt of Raskovan’s interview with the Colombian network.

Will marking put to an end the illegal smuggling of weapons? Or, what else is needed?

Firearms marking represents a very important step in the fight against weapons smuggling in the region. This marking process will permanently engrave firearms with such information as a serial number, a name and manufacturing location, as well as the Model and caliber. Overall, this process is an essential tool for legal authorities, helping them track weapons found in crime scenes; as well as in identifying smuggling routes and weapons traffickers. This project “Promoting Firearms Marking in Latin America and the Caribbean”, is being implemented under the framework of the Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA). Through this effort, we can expect that more than 50,000 firearms will have been marked in the hemisphere during the 2011-2012 year period.

Why are most of the illegal weapons located in the Central American countries, as well as Colombia, Mexico and Brazil?

The illicit traffic of weapons is largely linked to other aspects of organized crime such as drug trafficking, the trafficking of persons and criminal gangs, among others. This phenomenon represents not only the character of criminal organizations and their transnational operations, but also highlights the lack of resources being used to fight them effectively, particularly resources that can be executed through international and regional cooperation.

Please explain to us the firearms marking process

The marking tool OAS provides is a dot pin or micro-percussion electrical machine. A solid carbon needle is used to make micro-holes in different materials (metal, wood, plastic) at different depths depending on the operator’s needs. The benefit of this marking process is that it’s almost impossible to erase the engraving, and, even if the metal has been sanded, the use of chemicals makes, in most cases, the recovery of information plausible.

In Mexico, the bulk of illegal weapons come from the United States, how can this smuggling be stopped?

As the CIFTA emphasizes, besides marking and firearms tracking capabilities, it is also important that countries adopt all necessary measures for the establishment of an efficient system for issuing firearms licenses or export authorizations, import and international transit of firearms, as well as to reinforce controls over export locations. It is also important that all states cooperate and share information bilaterally, regionally and internationally to stop, combat, and eradicate the manufacturing and illegal smuggling of firearms.

How can you compare firearms smuggling in Latin America to the situation in other continents, such as Europe and Africa?

I don’t know in details the current situation in Europe and Africa. However, I can say that the illicit traffic of weapons is a global problem, affecting the security and well-being of all citizens. Clearly, the cycle of crime is transnational issue involving a various actors and activities that are linked to the manufacturing,  commercialization, as well as the use of weapons and ammunitions.

There are approximately 875 million weapons circulating in the world today. An estimated 74 percent of this corresponds to weapons in the possession of civilians and security guards, with only 23 percent corresponding to firearms in the hands of the governments’ armed forces and 3 percent in the hands of the police. Alternatively, approximately 8 million new firearms are manufactured each year and there are a large number of secondhand weapons that are in circulation - passing from owner to owner – which can remain in the market for decades. In regards to our region, it is estimated that approximately 700,000 weapons are smuggled from the United States to Mexico and the Caribbean, 300,000 of which continue their way to Central America.

   

 
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