Authorities must monitor ammunition diverted from legal to illicit markets

Ammunition diverted from legal to illicit markets is a central concern in small arms control, but its impact is understudied.

A new Briefing Paper from the Small Arms Survey and the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs explores how authorities can go about better monitoring the role it plays in violent crime.  

Extracting Evidence: Opportunities and Obstacles in Assessing the Gendered Impacts of Diverted Ammunition unpacks the challenges involved in trying to assess the true costs of ammunition diverted from official stockpiles.

The study describes the contextual background, notes the limitations of ammunition profiling research to date, and presents findings from a pilot case study on ammunition profiling in Kosovo as well as insights from ammunition marking policy in Brazil.

It finds that authorities struggle to identify what material among seized ammunition has been diverted from official stockpiles, which in turn prevents the ability to truly assess the impact it has on men, women, boys, and girls.

The study identifies measures for overcoming such monitoring challenges, including special marking practices for state-destined ammunition, headstamp data collection guidelines, and information sharing protocols between relevant agencies for ammunition recovered from crime scenes.

To date, researchers have not adequately explored the role that ammunition diverted from national stockpiles plays in violent crime.

Ammunition used in violent crime in Kosovo in the period 2019–21 includes examples sourced to stockpiles in the region that have been in circulation since the late 1990s.

Perpetrators also used some commercially available ammunition as quickly as one year after it was produced.

Men were the overwhelming perpetrators and victims of violence in Kosovo. While similar types of handgun ammu-nition were seized regardless of the victim’s sex, cartridges for AK-pattern rifles were used exclusively against men.

Law enforcement units that combine several types of crime data, such as the Kosovo Firearms Focal Point (FFP), offer unique opportunities to assess the gendered impacts of diverted ammunition; however, doing so would require these units to more routinely collect ammunition data.

Marking ammunition destined for state stockpiles would permit its rapid identification at crime scenes.

In Brazil, leading-edge marking practices have only been partially implemented and face political opposition.

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