Global Gun Trade

ImageThe role of guns & violence in America may be a hot topic these days, but I’d like to make it more international. Did you know that the United States is in fact the world’s number one weapons dealer with 40% market share for conventional weapons? Globally, there are approximately 639 million small arms and light weapons. Access to these weapons in troubled hot spots has allowed devastating human rights violations in places like Sudan, Syria and Congo. And it is estimated, these guns cause the killing of one person every minute.

It would be disingenuous of us to try to address firearm deaths in our own country without considering the consequences of US made products killing people in other countries. Later this month (March 2013), the UN will hold the final and concluding conference on the Arms Trade Treaty. The United Nations points out that its peacekeeping efforts alone costs the world $7 billion per year, and the global annual burden of armed violence stands at $400 billion. The UN goes on to say, “Without adequate regulation of international arms transfers and high common standards to guide national export decisions, the human tolls and financial costs will remain colossal.”

The NRA has taken great measures to oppose this treaty as potentially endangering domestic gun sales. So great has been their opposition, that the Obama administration pulled out of talks on this treaty last summer. The December 2012, the Hill reported, “The arms-trade treaty stalled in July, with gun-control activists accusing the Obama administration of sandbagging support for the bill to avoid criticism from Republicans and pro-gun-rights Democrats ahead of the election.” Whether that reason is true or not, certainly, this treaty cannot move forward without the largest gun supplier being a party to it now.

It is a frequent bias of America, when considering our public policies, that we look only to the consequences for our own people and not for others around the world. Consider the recent debate about whether drones are legal when targeting Americans. The moral issue of killing others does not seem to surface.

How can we live up to our ideals as a people, if we are the foremost global marketers of death? Consider the troubled border towns of northern Mexico, where the vast majority of weapons can be traced back to the US. Mexico has long complained that the United States is responsible for arming the drug cartels resulting in the deaths of more than 47,000 people in the last six years. And the lax weapons laws of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona result in 50 to 100 percent more homicides in cities that border those states than ones that border California with its tighter gun laws. It’s obvious where the weapons come from, and if they weren’t there, it’s also obvious that homicide rates would drop.

So we citizens have skin in this game. We are complicit to violence in countries we might never even visit. And it isn’t sufficient to only address violence in America since our gun culture has become a contagion causing fatalities in other countries. At the very least, we need to vote in favor of the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty. And maybe look ourselves in the mirror.

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