|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Fifth Biennial Meeting of States
on Illicit Trade in Small Arms
7th Meeting (AM)
Restraint Urged over Illicit Weapons Trade in Biennial Review Meeting amid Calls
to Ensure Respect for Legitimate Business, Personal Rights
Representatives of international, regional and non-governmental groups discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the United Nations small arms action plan, with many urging States to fully implement the 2001 instrument and others cautioning against infringing legitimate business and personal rights, as the Fifth Biennial Meeting of States continued its session today.
During the half-day debate, several speakers cited progress in the 13 years since the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects had laid the foundation for countering those problems.
To help States improve their ability to reduce armed violence, a group comprised of 23 United Nations partners, Coordinating Action on Small Arms, had launched a set of voluntary International Small Arms Control Standards to provide guidance on the implementation of relevant United Nations small arms control agreements. Speaking on the group’s behalf, a representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund said operational modules encompassed the full spectrum of small arms control measures, from legislation, to stockpile management, to awareness-raising.
A representative of the Economic Community of West African States said his region’s five-year programme covered such areas as marking, harmonization of legislation, border control, a database for peacekeeping operations and monitoring and evaluation. It also promoted information-sharing, supported resource mobilization and helped build capacities at individual, corporate and institutional levels.
A representative of the East African Community added that in his region national coordination structures had been institutionalized, laws revised and marking processes advanced. Record-keeping had also improved and supply factors were being addressed.
Urging more cooperation, a representative of the Regional Centre on Small Arms and Light Weapons in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States said there was inadequate awareness among youth of the dangers of small arms and light weapons, as well as weak national and regional institutions to control proliferation.
Such comments found easy agreement with several non-governmental groups. A representative of the International Action Network on Small Arms supported the Programme of Action as a minimum baseline to build upon, urging that the instrument be implemented in all its aspects. Preventing illicit trade was a shared responsibility: Governments to eliminate the conditions that facilitated violence and civil society “to hold you accountable and support your efforts”, through research, advocacy, policy analysis and programme design.
A representative of Peace Research Institute said several African Governments lacked guidelines for safe stockpile storage for guns and ammunition, using a room in a police station in place of an armoury. Classification and accounting was also essential, as were surveillance and testing procedures to test the reliability of ammunition. A sensible approach to stockpile management must cover weapons and their ammunition.
A representative of Sandy Hook Promise said his six-year old son had been murdered by an unstable person who had access to a weapon that had no place in a home. “It is the job of your Governments to implement policies to keep your citizens safe,” he said, underlining the need for better mental health care, and, further, mechanisms for identifying and monitoring people in mental distress. For victims, it did not matter whether weapons were purchased illegally; what mattered was that it was far too easy for a suicidal person to access unreasonably powerful weapons.
Others took issue with punishing legal gun owners in the “zeal” to staunch illicit weapons use. Sixty per cent of the world’s small arms were legally owned, some said, urging that those weapons be excluded from the Programme of Action and the Arms Trade Treaty. Others cautioned against easy technical “fixes” to solve the problem of gun violence.
Canada’s National Firearms Association, said its speaker, strongly recommended that the country “withdraw” from Programme-of-Action processes and explicitly state that the International Small Arms Control Standards had no legal standing. The United Nations, he said, should consider imposing significant sanctions against countries that murdered or otherwise oppressed their own citizens, and it should consider expelling them from the Organization.
A representative of the World Forum on Shooting Activities said the criminal use of legally owned weapons in the United States and Germany had been falling for decades, while illicit use had risen disproportionately in countries that had significantly restricted ownership of licit weapons. Those facts appeared to be ignored. To comments that the Programme of Action should cover ammunition, he said: “This can’t be done,” adding that that was not a political statement but a technical truth. The Action Programme would benefit from being more open to participation by the firearms community.
That was especially true in the areas of marking and tracing, said a representative of the Defense Small Arms Advisory Council, who noted that the micro-stamping of firing pins, proposed under the International Tracing Instrument, could easily be circumvented, rendering it virtually useless to law enforcement. Smart-gun technology, which disabled a firearm if handled by an unauthorized user, was not reliable. The call for advanced technology was commendable but should be a general goal, rather than a premature solution.
A representative of the Italian Association of Manufacturers of Sporting and Civilian Firearms and Ammunition, which represented 28 per cent of the European Union’s civilian firearm production and 50 per cent of its shotgun production, said if those weapons were not properly marked, record keeping was compromised, making tracing impossible.
Concerning complementarity, a representative of Trinidad and Tobago, on behalf of the Caribbean Community, pressed delegates to consider the natural interrelationship of synergies between the Action Programme and Arms Trade Treaty. The region, given its sustainable development and security interests, could not overlook the legally binding nature of the Arms Trade Treaty in helping States prevent the diversion of illicit small arms and light weapons to their shores.
Also speaking today was a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Transitions Foundation Guatemala, World Forum on Shooting Activities, Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, Heritage Foundation, Coalición Armas Legales Latinoamericanas, German Association of Manufacturers of Sporting and Hunting Firearms and Ammunition, Canadian Shooting Sports Association, Second Amendment Foundation and the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association.
The representatives of Kenya, Czech Republic, Mexico, Russian Federation, Guatemala, Argentina, Cameroon and Austria also spoke.
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