1. Total world arms trade
2. Top suppliers and buyers of weapons
3. Largest arms producing companies
4. Small arms
12 billion bullets are produced every year – enough to kill everyone on earth twice. In fact, every minute, one person is killed by armed violence. There are almost 1 billion guns in the world (of which about a quarter billion are in the U.S.). Guns or other light weapons are involved in roughly 60% of all human rights violations. Three quarters of all the weapons in the world – light and heavy – are supplied by the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. In 2011, exports of arms by the U.S. rose to 3 quarters of the total market.
Global transfers of large conventional weapons such as tanks and planes were 24% higher in 2007-2011 than in 2002-2006, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
However, estimates of the volume and financial value of the international arms trade vary a lot depending on how one defines “arms”. Many products have dual use, such as night vision equipment. SIPRI delivers the most cited figures:
And there’s also this estimate, which includes the sale of military services:
What is clear from all these estimates, however, is that the downward trend following the end of the Cold War has been reversed during the last decade.
Three-quarters of all exports in the past five years since 2007 were made by five or six countries: the US, Russia, Germany, the UK, China and France (in decreasing order). The US alone represents a third of global weapons exports.
Weapons sales by the United States tripled in 2011 to a record high, driven by major arms sales to Persian Gulf allies. Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion in 2011, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals. The American weapons sales total was an extraordinary increase over the $21.4 billion in deals for 2010.
The main buyers of arms are China, India, and the United Arab Emirates.
The large drop for China doesn’t signal a greater love of peace. Rather, the Chinese government has pretty effectively built up a domestic arms manufacturing and research sector.
This covers only international transfers. We should also include domestic sales of arms. Many industrialized countries have a domestic arms industry to supply their own military forces, and a domestic trade in weapons for use by their citizens. Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the phrase “military-industrial complex”, where the armed forces, industry and politics become closely linked and encourage each other’s hunger for arms.
According to SIPRI,
“arms sales by the 100 largest arms-producing companies in the world (excluding China) – the SIPRI Top 100 – amounted to $315 billion in 2006, an increase of 9 per cent in nominal terms and 5 per cent in real terms.”
Over 600 million items of small arms are in circulation. According to Oxfam, around 500.000 individuals die in small arms-conflicts every year, approximately one death per minute. About 60% of human rights violations documented by Amnesty International have involved the use of small arms and light weapons.