Illicit Arms

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PS 103

Virtually anything of value is offered for sale in today’s Global Marketplace, one of these international businesses is the sale of small arms. The illicit arms trade is an international business that has little laws and regulations. Not all of illicit arms trade is illegal since there is an enormous gray area between legal and illegal transactions. The world’s biggest countries are involved in the small arms trade with a revenue of billions of dollars a year. Does the sale of small arms fuel civil wars, contribute to crime rates and feed the arsenals of the worlds terrorist groups? In this essay I will describe what small arms are, how small arms may hinder development and rebuilding, the amount of civilians affected by small arms, the countries that partake in small arms trade, the markets, as well as illustrate the people and government that are trying to address the issue.


What exactly are small arms? Small arm weapons include, but are not limit to; handguns, pistols, sub-machine guns, mortars, landmines, grenades, light missiles and rocket launchers. Since small arms are relatively cheap, highly portable and easy to conceal, illicit trafficking is relatively easy. Professor Robert Neild of Cambridge University stated, “It has been estimated that there are now about 500 million small arms and light weapons in circulation in the world, one for every twelve people. Gone long ago is the time when we Europeans could subdue other continents because we had firearms and the local peoples had not. In 1999 it was reported that an AK-47 assault rifle could be bought in Uganda for the price of a chicken.” Small arms are today the weapons of choice around the globe – whether they are government armies, rebel forces, or terrorists – because they are cheap, widely available, extremely lethal, durable, portable and concealable.


The United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs describe that small arms and light weapons destabilize regions because they “Spark and fuel; prolong conflicts, Obstruct relief programmers, undermine peace initiatives, exacerbate human rights abuse, hamper development and foster a culture of violence.” The Control Arms Campaign states that, “illicit drugs production thrives on territory outside the control of recognized governments, and 95 per cent of the world’s production of hard drugs takes place in contexts of armed conflict. Armed groups illegally exploit valuable natural resources and their state sponsors, ruining millions of lives and impeding local development, as has occurred in DRC. International trade suffers and illicit markets thrive, to the detriment of national economies.” The UN also adds, “Unlike nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, there are no international treaties or other legal instruments for dealing with these weapons, which States and also individual legal owners rely on for their defense needs.” In particular, the UN says that small arms fuel regional instability. These persistent weapons often remain behind at the end of conflicts, thus enabling disputes to reignite or spread to neighboring countries. Even when further war is avoided, small arms become instruments for criminal violence and the disruption of development efforts. Ultimately, this kind of regional destabilization can cause states to fail and create the conditions in which terrorist organizations emerge and thrive (Barnett 221).

CIVILIANS AFFECTED BY SMALL ARMSCivilians are affected most by small arms trade, modern conflicts claim an estimated half a million people each year and over 80% of all these casualties have been civilian. 90% of civilian casualties are caused by small arms. When small arms are sold through the trade, some end up in the hands of terrorists, which fuel civilian deaths. In the hands of terrorists and other criminals, small arms has the capacity to kill...
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