“The distribution of small arms is not only a security problem, it is also a human rights and development problem. The distribution of small arms contributes to the continuation and escalation of armed conflicts. It endangers UN soldiers and emergency helpers. It undermines the respect for international law. It threatens democratically elected governments and strengthens terrorists as well as organized crime.”
Kofi Annan, General Secretary of the United Nations
It isn’t known how many small arms there are throughout the world. But estimates and studies such as the “Small Arms Report 2002” of the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva speak of more than 500 million.
The UNO defines small arms in a very inexact way as “weapons for personal use.” Included under this definition are pistols, rifles and light machine guns. Light weapons are “weapons to be used by several people in a team.” Included are, for example, heavy machine guns, portable rocket launchers, air defense guns and light grenade launchers.
In the German language “small arms” as well as “light weapons” are united in the concept “small arms.” One characteristic is that these weapons can generally be transported and fired by one person, often by ten-year-old children.
Most of the small arms distributed worldwide were produced with a license.
|Rank||Weapons-type||Weapons Supplier||in Millions|
|2.||Uzi-Family||Israel Milit. Ind. (Israel)||10|
|3.||G3-Family||Heckler & Koch (Germany)||7-10|
|4.||M16-Family||Colt’s M.C. (USA)||8|
|5.||FN FAL-Family||FN Herstal (Belgium)||5-7|
Small arms– the harmless sound of the name is deceptive. About 90% of all war victims are killed with small arms. Each minute a person dies due to wounds caused by a bullet, a hand grenade or a land mine. Since 1990 small arms have been the most important weapons of war parties in 46 of 49 conflicts. Since the 1990‘s at the latest they have become the real weapons of mass destruction.
Weapons alone do not cause a war. But in those places where assault rifles and submachine guns are part of the street scene or are lying ready by the thousands in storage, the small conflicts escalate more quickly, human rights are violated more often and more people are killed in a shorter period of time. The inhibition level for the employment of weapons sinks when the instruments of death are available everywhere.
The worldwide trade with “small arms and light weapons” increases steadily. Estimates say, that between seven and ten billion US dollars worth of small arms are legally sold each year. As a whole it is difficult to define the small arms trade statistically, because it uses many dark canals alongside the legal imports and exports. The number of countries in which small arms are produced has doubled between 1960 and 1999. During this period, the production has increased six times over. The “Small Arms Report 2002” speaks of 1000 firms in 98 countries, which produce small arms and ammunition. The most small arms come from a few countries: Belgium, China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Great Britain and the USA. Germany ranks second after the USA as far as small arms exports are concerned. The leading producer of German small arms is called Heckler & Koch.
Translation: V. Edwards-Menz