The United States is the world’s largest weapons exporter. Here’s the figures from 20 years ago.

As you’d expect, both our exports and imports of weapons have ballooned to double, even triple of what they were.

Germany is also another surprisingly robust exporter of weapons. Here, the figures from 20 years ago.

Their trade has also grown steadily in the last 20 years.

U.S. weapons exports usually go directly to close allies.

These figures belie the fact that Sudan is awash in small arms. One reason that imports aren’t higher is that there are so many guns already.

China’s figures from 20 years ago…

…compared with now. As China has grown, so has its list of allies and business partners.

China remains one of the only countries in the world willing to do business with North Korea. But they figures look ludicrously low. Presumably, most of their arms-imports are coming from the black market.

Infographic: Google Visualizes The World’s Terrifying Arms Trade

Because seriously, what does anyone need with a billion dollars in guns?

Remember the old nuclear bomb projections? The Soviet Union nuked the US. The US nuked the Soviet Union. Of course, the Soviet Union saw the US nukes coming their way, so they, for some odd reason, just nuked the whole world. Then the US nuked the world back.

Those were always unsettling, but at least they were theoretical. This Mapping Arms Data visualization, created by Google using information from the UN Statistics Division’s Commodity Trade Statistics Database (CoMtraDe), is entirely real. It depicts the personal arms (from pistols to machine guns) that every country in the world has imported and exported over nearly the last 20 years. And the US looks to lead the pack, with nearly $1 billion in imports and $600 million in exports snaking their glowing, pulsating tendrils into every spot on the globe.

The effect is only exacerbated by the fully explorable, 3-D interface. China is a global export hub--sending $50 million in weaponry around the globe, but they don’t hold a candle to Italy, which exported more than six times that amount in 2010. Indeed, however small a country may be on the globe, their large, laser-like arcs of light expelled by weaponry balance out any possible misconceptions. The glowing visual may be eye-burning overkill, but it’s also darned effective at calling out small land masses that would sneak by if all we did was paint them in a different color.

Of course, there are huge shortcomings with the reporting. The project admits that some military trades will circumvent gun checkpoints, some countries don’t account for all weapons coming over their borders and, in the cases of China, Iran and North Korea, especially, the reporting is far short of reliable (PFD). You could buy a midrange car for more than North Korea said they imported in weapons last year. Then again, the country is known for throwing bad military photoshops and parades full of fake missile launchers--and also doing plenty of covert trade in weapons and luxury items for the ruling regime.

But before the mass amounts we spend on personal weaponry get you too upset, do try to put it all into perspective. The US imported a billion dollars in guns in 2010, sure, but that’s less than the price of half a dozen F-22 jets.

Wait a second…actually have no idea if that makes me feel better or worse.

See it here.

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