85% of world's 1bn firearms held by civilians, study shows

As many as 85 percent of the world's one billion legal and illicit firearms are held by civilians – far exceeding the number of those held by modern armed forces and law enforcement agencies, a Swiss-based think tank revealed.

There are roughly one billion firearms in the world, and the vast majority of them are in civilian – not military – hands, according to a new study by a think tank in Switzerland.

The Small Arms Survey, which provides research and expertise on weapons proliferation and armed violence, examined the ownership of automatic pistols and revolvers, rifles, carbines, assault rifles and sub- and light-machine guns, held by civilian, military and law enforcement entities.

 
Patti Sapone

A total of 857 million firearms, both legal and illicit, are estimated to be held by civilians, including individuals, private security companies, non-state armed groups and gangs. The US topped the list of heaviest-armed nations, with its citizens possessing 393 million weapons. The figure means that there are roughly 121 guns for every 100 Americans.

Trailing far behind their American counterparts are Indians, who own 71 million guns, and the Chinese, who possess over 49 million firearms.

"The key to the United States, of course, is its unique gun culture," said Aaron Karp, the author of the study. Americans, the study notes, are inclined to own arms converted from military variants.

"As of 2016, 42.3 percent of hunters and shooters were reported owning at least one AR15 platform (M16-style rifle) or semi-automatic assault weapon such as AR15- or Kalashnikov-style rifle," it says.

Discussions about gun control, mental health, and law enforcement powers have dominated public discourse in the US from time to time, quickly becoming relevant in light of mass shootings or gun-related violence. Some observers raised concerns over easy access to civilian-issue weapons in the United States.

"It's insane, and you know, we license cars. You can't just get in a car and drive it," Dave Lindorff, an investigative journalist, told RT. "But you can get a gun and shoot it. You don't need any training, you don't need any licensing," he added, referring to the "nuttiness" of some state legislation allowing concealed carry.

Interestingly, the number of guns in military arsenals is far less impressive, the paper shows. Stockpiles belonging to armed forces in 177 countries contained at least 133 million firearms. Russia, China, North Korea, Ukraine and the US combined have the largest stockpiles of small arms.

The Russian military possessed the largest military firearms arsenal (30.3 million), but announced the disposal of over 10 million weapons back in 2010, including four million Kalashnikov assault rifles, the Small Arms Survey stressed.

READ MORE: US military spending grew for 1st time in 6 years in 2016 – study

Many military-owned firearms had made their way to non-state – and often illicit – markets, the researchers warned. Collapse of state authority, like the one that happened after the US-led 2003 invasion in Iraq, saw terrorist groupings seizing weapons from government arsenals.

Another 22.7 million firearms were held by law enforcement agencies worldwide, making up a tiny two percent of all small arms in the world. Whereas the US was dominant in civilian-gun ownership, the report said that the country was only fifth in law enforcement holdings, behind Russia, China, India and Egypt.

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Trump Orders Creation Of New "Space Force", Sixth Branch Of Armed Forces

Washington:  US President Donald Trump said Monday that he would direct the Defense Department and the Pentagon to create a new "Space Force" - an independent sixth branch of the armed forces.

Trump has floated this idea before - in March, he said he initially conceived it as a joke - but has offered few details about how the Space Force would operate.

Trump said Monday that the branch would be "separate but equal" from the Air Force. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would oversee its creation.

Saying that he does not want "China and other countries leading us," Trump said space was a national security issue.

The Outer Space Treaty, which the United States signed in 1967, bars states from testing weapons and establishing military bases on the moon and other celestial bodies. It also prohibits the placement of weapons of mass destruction in orbit around Earth. But the treaty has no enforcement mechanism (indeed, the Air Force's unmanned space plane, the X-37B, has completed several clandestine missions).

Trump has floated creating a Space Force for months, but the idea goes back at least a year to a proposal by Rep. Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala., and Rep. Jim Cooper, D.-Tenn. Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, and Cooper, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, argued that it made sense to have a "Space Corps," a separate branch of service with its own four-star general serving on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Under their plan, it would have reported to the Department of the Air Force, in similar fashion to how the Marine Corps reports to the Department of the Navy.

Last fall, that proposal was scrapped amid resistance from senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who said it would create unnecessary costs and bureaucracy.

"I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions," Mattis said in October in a memo to Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Some are worried that the Space Force would duplicate existing efforts. The Air Force already maintains a Space Command, for example.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, dean of the Air Force Association-founded Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, described the decision to create a Space Force as "another example of ready, fire, aim," in a Monday news briefing.

The announcement was made at a meeting of the National Space Council, at which Trump signed a new space policy directive aimed at reducing debris in Earth's orbit. The policy sets up new guidelines for satellite design and operation, as well as tracking the growing amount of clutter in space.

But, citing the number of regulations his administration has dismantled since he took office, Trump warned the space council, "Don't get too carried away."

The president also reasserted plans to land astronauts on the moon again and, eventually, Mars. But his administration has provided few specifics about the architecture of its moon program or a timeline for returning to the lunar surface.

The Washington Post's Aaron Gregg contributed to this report.

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North American Composer Charles Fox to Perform in Cuba

Havana, Jun 19 (Prensa Latina) North American composer and singer Charles Fox, author of the hit Killing me softly with this song, will give a concert on July 1 at the Gran Teatro de La Habana ''Alicia Alonso'', organizers reported today.

The performance by renowned film and television soundtrack writer Fox, entitled Havana Dreams, is the first stop on a tour of several cities around the world to celebrate 55 years of his artistic career.

Fox will take a tour of his extensive repertoire, accompanied by several generations of local musicians.

Among the guests were Cuban diva Omara Portuondo, who will play Killing me softly with young Cristian Alejandro; trumpeter Juan Kemell, saxophonist and clarinetist Javier Zalba, and violinist Rafael Lay, director of the Aragón orchestra, among others, according to a statement sent by the organizers to Prensa Latina.

Prior to the concert, Fox will meet with artists from the island on June 24 at the Cultural Center on 31 and 2 Streets, located in Vedado Havana, and three days later at Fábrica de Arte Cubano.

Fox's professional career began in the second half of the 1960s with arrangements for musicians from different sound fields, and curiously enough, his work for salsa icons Ray Barretto and Tito Puentes stands out at this stage.

However, it is in the composition of soundtracks for film and television that he becomes famous, and under his signature appears the music of the series Love, American Style, Happy Days, and Wonder Woman; and the films The Last American Hero, Foul Play, and The Other Side of the Mountain, among others,

His Grammy winning song Killing me softly with this song put him at the top of the charts, and since 1972, when he composed it, it has been performed by a long list of artists, the best known version being that of American singer Roberta Flack.

Fox is a two-time Emmy Award winner, nominated for an Oscar on an equal number of occasions, and a three-time Golden Globe winner, and has been a member of the Composer's Hall of Fame since 2004.

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Suspect dead, 20 injured in New Jersey arts festival shooting

Twenty people have been injured, some critically, in a shooting at an arts festival in Trenton, New Jersey on Sunday. One person, suspected to be behind the shooting, has been killed according to local officials.

A second suspect is in police custody, according to Mercer County Prosecutor’s office. Fifteen of those injured suffered gunshot wounds and a 13 year-old boy is among the casualties.

Local authorities say that several people opened fire inside the venue and multiple weapons were recovered in the scene. The casualties were confirmed by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s office.

Police received reports that a man had opened fire inside Roebling Market, where the all-night event took place, shortly before 3 am.

"It's a massive crime scene," Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri said at a news conference.

Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson described the incident as “truly a tragedy,” and expressed his sympathies to the victims and their families.

One eyewitness told WPVI that he saw a person with gunshot wounds. “I saw two police officers escort a guy that got shot in the leg,” he said. “They bandaged him up and whisked him away before the ambulance came here."

The 24-hour arts festival, which included artwork submitted by local children, and an anti-gun violence project, has since been cancelled.

@aantrenton It’s with great regret that we announce that the remainder of Art All Night has been cancelled due to a tragic incident that occurred overnight. We’re still processing much of this and we don’t have many answers at... https://www.facebook.com/aantrenton/posts/

@kpgoing4change “Imagine a world free of gun violence. What do you see?” Making art and talking about Moms Demand Action at Art All Night - Trenton. 24 hour event tabling! @momsdemand @aantrenton

@cosmic_hiccup Replying to @TheScottCharles  This is what our community art project looked like when my daughter and I left at 11:30.

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2,000 Kids Separated From Parents Under Trump Border Crackdown

The Trump administration separated nearly 2,000 immigrant children from parents or guardians at the border over the span of six weeks, a Department of Homeland Security official said on Friday.

The administration is under intense scrutiny over its current crackdown at the border, which is aimed at prosecuting as many people as possible for illegal entry ― even if it means splitting children from their parents.

From April 19 through May 31, border officials separated 1,995 children from 1,940 adults with whom they were traveling, a DHS official told reporters, confirming numbers first reported by The Associated Press.

President Donald Trump has claimed the family separations are not his fault, even though they are happening because of his own administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal border-crossing. Under that policy, families apprehended after crossing the border without authorization are being separated so the parents can be jailed, rather than kept together and put directly into immigration proceedings. 

The Justice Department remains far from attaining the goal of universally prosecuting all illegal border crossings, though a DOJ official told reporters that the percentage of people caught crossing the border illegally who were hauled into federal court has more than doubled since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the change last month.

But regardless of whether prosecutors can take all the cases, officials insist that family members will no longer be exempted from facing criminal charges, meaning that family separations at the border will continue.

U.S. Border Patrol agents take a father and son from Honduras into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 near Missio
John Moore/Getty Images
U.S. Border Patrol agents take a father and son from Honduras into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 near Mission, Texas.

DHS and DOJ officials, who declined to comment by name on the call with reporters, accused opponents of the policy of misrepresenting the facts and of arguing for special treatment for immigrant parents. They argued that splitting families to prosecute parents for illegal entry, which is a misdemeanor for first-time offenders, is no different than jailing someone for another type of crime away from their children. 

“They want illegal aliens to get better rights than U.S. citizens have,” one Trump administration official said, rebutting widespread criticism of the family separation policy among immigrant rights groups, church leaders and Democratic politicians.

U.S. Border Patrol agents take a father and son from Honduras into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12 near Missio

On Friday, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a nonpartisan fact-finding agency, piled on, issuing a letter asking Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to halt the family separations. 

The family separation policy raises “grave concerns” about due process and coercive tactics that pressure migrants to withdraw valid asylum applications “for fear of what may be happening to their children,” the letter says. 

“The Commission’s concerns are exacerbated by the apparent animus directed at Mexican and Central American immigrants by the Administration, giving rise to questions of unwarranted discrimination on the basis of national origin,” the letter says. 

There is no law that requires the government to separate families at the border, although Trump has repeatedly falsely claimed it is a result of laws passed by Democrats. While illegal entry is a crime, prior administrations have largely avoided prosecuting mothers who cross with their children. This doesn’t mean they avoid consequences ― they still face the prospect of deportation ― but it prevents large-scale family separation.

But the Trump administration has indicated there are two other reasons for family separations as well: to deter other immigrants and to gain policy concessions from Democrats.

Trump tweeted earlier Friday that “Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda,” calling for legislation that would provide “full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration.” Those are Trump immigration priorities, but they’re not related to family separations at the border.

Some Republicans in Congress have said they oppose family separations, but their proposed solution is to change the law so that children can be detained for longer periods with their parents.

The White House tried out some new family separation messaging later on Friday, smearing Democrats as responsible for murder and other violence perpetrated by undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

In an email to reporters, the White House called it “CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS’ FAMILY SEPARATION POLICY: Too many American families have been permanently separated from loved ones lost to illegal alien crime.”

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Pennsylvania Joins Coalition against US Blockade to Cuba

Washington, Jun 11 (Prensa Latina) Leading leaders of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania launched today the bipartisan Pennsylvania State Council-Engage Cuba, aimed at seeking support for the island''s approach, and the end of travel and trade restrictions.

With that step, the territory becomes the 18th state in this country to join Engage Cuba, a coalition based in Washington DC that is dedicated to promoting legislation to eliminate the economic, commercial and financial blockade that has been imposed on the Caribbean country for more than 55 years old.

Through a statement, the organization reported that the structure created on Monday will urge Congress to lift the prohibitions that harm both the inhabitants of Pennsylvania and the Cubans.

Ending trade restrictions on Cuba could bring new opportunities to Pennsylvania's agriculture, manufacturing and other major export industries while creating jobs in the Commonwealth, coalition president James Williams said on the subject.

But he said that to implement that boost the Congress should put an end to arbitrary measures that impede U.S. participation in Cuban markets, and applauded Senator Bob Casey (Democrat), and representatives Mike Doyle (Democrat) and Glenn Thompson ( Republican) for their support of legislative efforts in this area.

  • Published in Cuba

Bolivia's Morales Slams 'Coup Attempts' by US, OAS in Venezuela

Evo Morales said he condemns U.S. coup attempts in Venezuela with the pretext of applying the OAS Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Bolivian President Evo Morales condemned Wednesday U.S. attempts at trashing the Bolivarian Revolutionary government of Venezuela .

RELATED: Venezuela's Maduro Accuses US of Infiltrating State Oil Company

The head of state took to his official Twitter account, writing, “We condemn the coup attempt of #EEUU [U.S.] that seeks to force an intervention of the brother people of Venezuela with the excuse of applying Inter-American Democratic Charter of the #OAS.”

He also called out U.S. Vice President Mike Pence describing his request to suspend Venezuela from the Organization of American States, or OAS, during the organization's 48th General Assembly as being “undemocratic.”

Morales added that Pence's position was in direct “violation of the principles of sovereignty and non-interference” in the internal affairs of other countries.

He said the United States is using the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the OAS as a pretext to stir up regional support for a military intervention in Venezuela.

Apart from requesting Venezuela's suspension from the OAS, Pence also requested member countries impose new sanctions on the South American country

The Bolivian leader said he will not attend the OAS resolution that will start the process of suspending Venezuela from the organization. He argued that such a determination contravenes the principles of international law regarding the sovereignty of states.

Venezuela, led by President Nicolas Maduro, has repeatedly rejected constant aggression and interventionist measures spearheaded by the United States and its “junior partners” in the region, including, but not limited to, Peru, Colombia and Brazil.

On the other hand, Venezuelan authorities have argued that any attempt to suspend the country from the OAS is only an added provocation as the nation announced last year that it was leaving the regional bloc, a process that will be finalized in April 2019.

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How US-China Dispute May Turn Into Trade War With No End in Sight

China is not going to bend under Donald Trump's pressure, analysts told Sputnik, referring to Beijing's recent statement issued after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' visit to the country. According to the analysts, the ongoing dispute risks turning into a new round of a trade war.

China and the United States can cooperate in the sphere of trade, but if Washington takes measures against Beijing, the latter will certainly respond in a tit-for-tat manner, said Bian Yongzu, a researcher with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the People's University of China.

"If the US deliberately creates trade barriers and provokes a trade war, then this is not a market problem, it is already a political problem," Bian told Sputnik China. "Problems cannot be solved this way. According to some experts, the US is deliberately exerting pressure on China."

On May 29 the Trump administration signaled that the tariff war is far from being over: "the United States will impose a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China containing industrially significant technology, including those related to the 'Made in China 2025' program," the statement said specifying that the measures will take effect on June 15 and 30.

The announcement preceded Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' summit with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on June 2-3 in Beijing.

In response to Washington's sudden change of heart which de facto undermined the May 19 joint statement on the suspension of the tariff frictions, Beijing made it clear that once the US imposes new restrictions on Chinese imports, it would nullify all previous agreements reached by the sides.

"China does not demonstrate cowardice, but at the same time does not exert pressure on the US amid trade frictions," Bian pointed out, stressing that Beijing has "a whole set of adequate countermeasures" to respond to Washington's tariff war.

He added that while "China and the United States can sit down at the negotiating table calmly, it means that there remains an opportunity to solve the problem and both sides can achieve the desired results from the negotiations."

According to observers, the US representative has not gained any tangible results during the recent meeting.

For their part, the Chinese have issued a statement saying that China is willing to increase imports from other countries, "including the US," to address the needs of the population of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

"All economic and trade outcomes of the talks will not take effect if the US imposes any trade sanctions including raising tariffs," the statement emphasized.

According to Andrei Volodin, an analyst at the Institute of Contemporary International Studies of the Diplomatic Academy, Trump's assertiveness was resisted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who does not intend to give in without reciprocal moves on the part of the US.

"China behaves logically, because the US trade deficit is the result of the inefficient American economy," the Russian academic opined. "The US deficit in trade with China began to reach its peak in 2005-2006. At that time, China was not so active either in the US market or in the global economy. Therefore, one could say that China's 'dumping prices' didn't affect the American economy. China understands this perfectly. It also makes it clear that its huge financial resources are invested in US securities, which means that the two countries will have to negotiate."

For its part, Chinese media outlet Global Times presumed that the ongoing trade dispute could become a "protracted" one: "Given the US may change its mind and make new requests from time to time, it is difficult for both sides to nail down a consistent trade pact and stabilize their trade relationship."

Now it all depends on whether the US will give up its plan to impose additional tariffs on Chinese goods on June 15. If Trump's threats become reality the trade war will continue to gain pace.

Meanwhile, China is seeking opportunities to beef up its presence on global markets. Speaking to Xinhua, Chinese Ambassador to Russia Li Hui singled out the Eurasian Economic Union which has "great potential" according to the diplomat. On May 17, the EAEU and China inked an agreement on trade and economic cooperation in Astana.

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