Honduran officials say seizures of illegal firearms at border checkpoints are increasing rapidly, as the market for millions of illegal firearms continues to grow and fuel violence in the Central American country.
According to Honduras' National Anti-Evasion Force (Fuerza Nacional Antievasión - FNA), customs officers in Honduras are seizing an average of 35 to 40 firearms and ammunition shipments per month.
Officers are interdicting shipments from Mexico, the United States and various countries in Latin America, the news outlet La Tribuna reported. The seizures have reportedly occurred at airports, seaports and overland border crossings around the country.
In a joint statement on November 10, the FNA and the Presidential Commission for Tax Administration (Comisionada Presidencial para la Administración Tributaria - CPAT) stated that weapons seizures in 2011 averaged 2.5 per month. Five years later, that figure has multiplied nearly fifteenfold.
Traffickers are increasingly utilizing creative ways to smuggle the firearms into the country, according to authorities. Smugglers have taken to hiding firearms in bags of pet food to confuse security dogs. Additionally, they have begun disassembling firearms and placing them in foil packets or hiding them inside home appliances.
According to FNA head Norman Gallardo, recent seizures have included rifles and laser sights favored by criminal groups. Gallardo said that the estimated black market prices for firearms are significantly lower than those in the legal market. For instance, a black market handgun may cost between $130 to $215, whereas the same type of weapon may cost anywhere from $1,000 to $1,300 if purchased legally.
Officials from the FNA and CPAT noted that there has been a large increase in weapons coming from the United States and Mexico. Angela Madrid, head of CPAT, announced that in the coming days she would ask for a meeting with US authorities to address the flow of firearms.
InSight Crime Analysis
Two factors are likely fueling the growing illegal firearms trade in Honduras. The same geography and weak state institutions that make Honduras a major transit nation for drug trafficking also facilitate the trafficking of illegal firearms. Additionally, as the state fails to provide security for many of its citizens, some may be driven to purchase firearms illegally, believing that this will help them ensure their own personal safety.
The illegal firearms market directly contributes to the high homicide rate in the country, as criminal groups can easily obtain high-grade weapons and ammunition. In 2016, firearms were reportedly used in more than 80 percent of all homicides in Honduras -- almost double the global average.
SEE ALSO: Honduras News and Profiles
Although estimates of the number of illegal firearms in Honduras vary, they all paint a similarly grave picture. A 2011 report released by the National Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (Comisionado Nacional de los Derechos Humanos - CONADEH), found that 592,000 out of 850,000 total firearms in the country had no registration. In 2014, it was reported that roughly 1.2 million guns in Honduras were unregistered, or roughly two-thirds of the total. This represented one illegal firearm for every four people in the country.