Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex III


  The British Government prides itself in having implemented some of the most stringent domestic firearms laws in the world, yet the UK continues to make a significant contribution to the excessive pool of small arms throughout the rest of the world. We can take little pride in these double standards. On the one hand we rightly limit gun availability in our own country while on the other hand the UK continues to provide large quantities of guns to other nations.

  The majority of those killed and injured by small arms are civilians. GCN urges the Home Affairs Committee to use its influence to urge the Government to give its strongest possible support to the current moves to restrict the proliferation of small arms throughout the world.

  UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recently addressed the Security Council saying:

    Small arms and light weapons are primary tools of violence in many conflicts taking place in the world. The proliferation of small arms, ammunition and explosives has also aggravated the violence associated with terrorism and organized crime. Even in societies not beset by civil war, the easy availability of small arms has in many cases contributed to violence and political instability.

  The arms trade features at the top of the agenda of the United Nations Security Council, yet the five permanent members, including the UK, are alone responsible for more than 80 per cent of the world's arms trade. British companies, including for example British Aerospace, avoid export controls by making guns under licence in other countries.

  According to Oxfam Britain exported small arms to more than 100 countries between 1995 and 1997. Small arms export licences have been granted for Columbia, Cambodia, the Congo and Turkey amongst others. British-based companies broker small arms transfers to conflict zones such as Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

  GCN has been involved in discussions on the proliferation on small arms at the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. We were pleased that the UK government gave its support to the resolution on "Measures to regulate firearms for the purpose of combating illicit trafficking in firearms". However, we wish the government to go further than this and actively encourage a reduction in small arms sales involving this country.

  In May 1999 the international NGO community, identifying the proliferation of small arms as a serious humanitarian challenge, launched a campaign under the banner of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). It was created to facilitate international NGO action that is fundamentally aimed at enhancing the security of populations by preventing the proliferation and misuse of small arms. However, IANSA and its constituent NGOs, cannot achieve this without the support of governments. GCN hopes that Britain will be able to show the same kind of lead to the world as it has on domestic gun control by taking prompt action to reduce the danger of guns to those who live outside our shores.

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