On Sunday, 19th June, the Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence ended. Insofar, this blogpost comes a bit late. Anyway, the importance of this issue prompts me to write this.
In many parts of the world we could ask: what was first? The violent conflict or the widespread possession of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW)? The supply perspective assumes that a great number of weapons within a society a priori sparks conflicts. The demand perspective suggests that in regions which are heading for violent conflicts the demand for weapons increases. In general, it is acknowledged that weapons do not trigger conflicts but that they do have the potential to intensify the level of violence. Think for example of Mexico. Drugs are the reason for the insecurity in many parts of Mexico but the widespread availability of guns, that are mainly provided by suppliers from the United States, has contributed to “Mexico’s dangerous levels of violence”.
In many post-conflict societies the oversupply with SALWs can lead to a vicious circle. The government is not any longer able to secure public safety because of the armed population. This in turn, induces many people to arm themselves because to their impression, seemingly everybody owns a gun. In El Salvador, for example, after the end of the civil war more people had been killed by firearms than before. The reason for this was an expansion of the criminal sector.
This dilemma becomes clearer if you watch this short film. It’s about the biggest gun market in the world, in Pakistan.
“People of this area believe: Many sons and a lot of guns.”
In 2001 the United Nations adopted the Programme of Action to prevent the illicit trade of Small Arms and Light Weapons and many regional organizations have also implemented arms control schemes. These programmes and treaties can only be one step towards more peaceful societies but in the light of the fact that SALWs represent the “weapons of mass destruction of our times” it is indispensable.