The illicit networks that cross the globe are tied into a number of activities. Human trafficking, drugs, and the arms trade are just pieces of a much larger puzzle. Google Ideas, and by extension Google, has been looking at how we can collectively go about leveraging our intelligence and technology to help the world better combat these operations. The recent Illicit Networks: Forces in Opposition, or INFO, summit from the group has led to Google creating a haunting interactive visualization of the global arms trade as a reference tool.
The tool was created by Google’s Creative Lab in collaboration with the Igarape Institute. The data points, which number over a million, were all provided by the small arms database of the Peace Research Institute Oslo. According to that data, 75% of the small arms in the world are owned by civilians to the total of over 650 million. Interestingly, the data also shows that ammunition trading is actually a much more lucrative business than many realize with it rivaling the trade of small arms.
Even though many on the Internet have somehow conflated this with domestic gun control, it’s honestly a much larger issue. A quick glimpse at the data provided by the visualization indicates that the United States exported $606.5 million worth of small arms and ammunition in 2010. This is just counting the government-authorized transfers — anything that was done illicitly actually isn’t even counted. You can trace the data all the way back to 1992 to see that the U.S. has been a major player in these transfers for every year the visualization represents.
Authorized or not, the use the weapons and ammunition see once traded is nebulous at best. It’s not like every single pistol can be easily tracked once it reaches its destination. Essentially, however, a gun is a tool with surprisingly few uses. To say that some of these weapons end up in the hands of the less scrupulous is probably an understatement. Hopefully, Google’s tool will aid the world in understanding arms trade as a whole.
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