Laci sent me the link to this absolutely fascinating report.
There are two primary markets for illicit arms – those who need weapons for criminal purposes, and those who need them for political ones.
To get a sense of the relative value of the market for firearms compared to other forms of contraband, it helps to look at some concrete examples. On 16 November 2009, the Nicaraguan Government made what was hailed as “one of the largest seizures of weaponry ever made by the Nicaraguan authorities” 6 – a consignment of arms for the local representatives of the Mexican Sinaloa cartel. The shipment comprised 59 assault rifles, two grenade launchers and 10 grenades, eight kilos of TNT and nearly 20,000 rounds of ammunition. While this sounds impressive, the total value of this shipment was likely less than US$200,000 at point-of-sale. Three days later, the Nicaraguan navy seized 2.4 tons of cocaine off the Caribbean coast. The value of this shipment was at least 400 times as much, around US$80 million in US wholesale markets. One area where criminal weapons flows could conceivably provide attractive long-term profits for organized groups is the movement of weapons from the USA to Mexico, one of the two trafficking flows discussed further below. Due to a constitutional provision that asserts that the right to bear arms must be protected in a free state, the United States has the most heavily armed civilian population in the world, and so opportunities for diversion by theft are plentiful. But, as will be discussed, it appears that most of the guns trafficked into Mexico are actually purchased legally and then transported clandestinely across the border.