Guns. Guns. Guns! Lebanon's market for illegal weapons has been the subject of legend and much debate for many years.
But the market has actually fallen into a slump recently, with sales dropping or remaining stagnant.
According to gun dealers and buyers, the market was growing up until two years ago. Since then, the prices have dropped and the sale and purchase of weapons has decreased, with a reduced demand for new guns. That's not to say that gun ownership, and its spread among civilians, is on the decline.
YallaFeed, StepFeed's sister publication, spoke with a gun dealer in Beirut to find out more about Lebanon's illegal weapons market.
The gun dealer, Abu Hatem (a pseudonym) explained that the security forces are actually fully aware of gun dealers and the political parties supporting them.
"There are many dealers that are protected by political parties, and most of them are known by the government. Once a weapon is sold, the parties inform the government of the type of gun and name of the buyer," he said.
"In case of any crime, the security forces check with the weapons dealers to know the source and owner of the gun. This eases the process of detecting offenders," he added.
How much do weapons cost?
Weapons in Tripoli are cheaper than the weapons in Beirut, since they can be smuggled from the Syrian borders.
The bullets of the guns owned by political and security members are cheap and readily available. Prices differ significantly based on the type of weapon.
The Glock and HS are sold for $3,000 on average, while the 14-gun is sold for $300. The price of a pistol depends on the quality, and it ranges from $700 to $1,500.
You can buy a Turkish handgun for $100 or $200. But Abu Hatem warned that it might explode in your hands.
For $700, you can buy a Makarov, for $1,800 you can buy a Russian Viking and for 900$ you can buy a 7-millimeter.
The price of a Kalashnikov ranges from $800 to $6,000. Rifles sell within the same price range.
Prices can also depend on how the guns look. They can be decorated, engraved and plated with gold, silver or brass. Often, they are engraved with political and religious slogans or pictures of people. This makes the gun, whether it is new or old, more valuable.
Conflicts in Lebanon can contribute to a rise in weapon prices. Abu Hatem said the relative stability in Tripoli is a factor that led to the market's stagnation. Other areas threatened by terrorism, including border villages like al-Qaa, are places where weapons are in high demand, but it's still not enough. Heightened shipments may also be causing a dip in prices. For instance, there has been an increase in Glock or HS shipments starting not long ago.
Where do the weapons come from?
Weapons in Lebanon can come from a number of countries, including Russia, Iran and even Israel.
Every organization or party owns specific weapons, especially those that existed during the country's civil war. For instance, the Russian Makarov guns were known to be owned by the Lebanese Communist Party during the war. After the Civil War and as the Syrian war rages, the gun became more available in the Lebanese market for lower prices since it was shipped from Syria.
Grenades are not available as readily as other weapons, because they are associated with terrorism. But according to Abu Hatem, they are sold in Sabra, a Beirut suburb.
Who buys the guns and where?
According to Abu Hatem, the location and places of dealers are known to those who buy. They do not sell to strangers.
"We have no delivery service," he said.
Every area has its dealers, and they usually communicate with each other. Some Lebanese buy weapons to use and store, while others – men and women – buy weapons as a "hobby".
Most Lebanese buy guns for self-defense. Many own guns without licenses, although most of them are seeking a legal permit.
What's causing a slump in sales?
Abu Hatem explained that the government's decision to fight celebratory gunfire has led to a drop in sales.
Additionally, the policies of the new Minister of Defense Yacoub Sarraf has curbed the demand for weapons. Sarraf's policy requires identifying the type and number of the gun before granting the holder a license, while ministers in previous governments did not care.
Increased security raids take their toll on gun trafficking as well. Gun dealers usually stop buying and selling guns during periods with increased security measures.
When security forces seize illegal weapons, political parties remove their protection from dealers, denying any connection to them. According to Abu Hatem, the political parties in Lebanon are not directly involved in gun trafficking, and some even started confiscating what is known as "the war spoils in Syria".
Some party members involved in Syrian battles would take any weapon left on the battlefield. The fighters would usually keep the weapons as war spoils or sell them to dealers in Lebanon. But he said this is not happening anymore.