GENEVA — The vast majority of people who die from armed violence each year are killed outside of wars and other conflicts, a global survey of firearms revealed Tuesday.
The Graduate Institute's annual survey found an average of 526,000 people a year died violently between 2004 and 2009, and that 90 percent of the armed violence did not involve international conflicts or civil wars.
The survey also found that between 42 percent and 60 percent of lethal violence occurs with a firearm, and that civilians hold about three-quarters of the approximately 875 million weapons worldwide.
The survey, which is sponsored by the Swiss foreign ministry and other governments, covers both military-style small arms and light weapons such as revolvers, rifles and submachine guns, along with commercial handguns and long guns. Among the multiple other findings are:
—A strong correlation between the rise and fall of ammunition prices in Lebanon and the popularity of certain rifle models used by Syrian rebel fighters. For example, Belgian-made FN FAL rifles became "useless" to Syrian fighters when the price of cartridges reached $3. But the most commonly available military rifles, including the Russian-made AK 47s and American-made M16s in Lebanon and Pakistan, command higher prices when ammunition prices tend to be low.
The Institute's senior researcher Glenn McDonald said ammunition prices reflect the course of armed conflicts like the one in Syria, and added that the survey overlapped with the first year and a half of the conflict there.
"We see that ammunition prices are, in fact, following levels of fatalities in Syria," he said.
—Between 40 percent and 70 percent of female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner, often with a gun. Around 66,000 women are killed violently each year around the world — equivalent to 17 percent of all intentional homicides — usually by a current or former partner.
"The risk is increased by the presence of guns in the home," said the survey's research director, Anna Alvazzi del Frate.
— Homicides linked to the Italian mafia declined 43 percent between 2007 and 2010, reflecting its move away from traditional activities to more legal businesses. But the overall decline masks regional variations, such as in Naples and Calabria, where there is a high degree of mafia violence.
—Homemade weapons — mainly mortars, pistols and pump-action shotguns — that confer status and strength are now the main type of firearm carried by the Nicaraguan gangs that sprung up after the end of the nation's civil war between the U.S. backed "Contras" and the Sandinistas.