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Report: Most Armed Violence Has Nothing to Do With War

Families of US school gun shooting victims listen to news conference outside Senate chamber after a vote on gun legislation, April 17, 2013
A new report finds only a small percentage of people who die violently are killed as a direct result of war. The Small Arms Survey 2013 reports hundreds of thousands of people die every year as a result of armed violence while going about their daily activities.

The news media report daily on people killed by machine gun fire, mortars and other lethal weapons in conflicts such as Syria, Mali, and Afghanistan.

But according to the Small Arms Survey, these deaths account for only 10 percent of an average 526,000 people who have died violently each year between 2004 and 2009. Ninety percent of those who meet a violent death are exposed to everyday dangers far from the battlefields.

The 312-page report explores different aspects of armed violence including gang and organized violence, domestic violence, land disputes and conflict and community violence.

The report notes civilians hold roughly 75 percent of the approximately 875-million firearms possessed worldwide.

It estimates 42 to 62 percent of lethal violence globally is committed with firearms. It adds for each person killed with a firearm, at least three more survive gunshot injuries.

Small Arms Survey Research Director Anna Alvazzi del Frate says guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination.

“Our findings highlight that the risk of intimate partner violence with firearms is higher in countries with high levels of firearm violence in general, highlighting a culture of violence that spreads across different types of violence," said del Frate. "And, the risk is increased by the presence of guns in the home, including work-related guns. Although most gun owners are men, the majority of victims of domestic violence are females.”

Studies in a number of countries show between 40 and 70 percent of female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner. The report finds mafia homicides have declined by some 45 percent from 2007 to 2010. It suggests the murder rate may be going down because organized crime is increasingly moving into legal markets and shooting people is not good for business.

The report finds land disputes are the origin of much of the violence in Africa. It says the death tolls from land-related conflicts range from tens to thousands killed, sometimes over long periods of time.

In 2010, the survey says the United States topped the list of 55 exporters of small arms and light weapons. It also topped the list of importers. It says authorized trade in small arms transfers in 2010 amounted to $4.4 billion, although unofficial estimates put that figure at about $8.5 billion or more.

The Small Arms Survey is an independent research project located at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.