Armaments - things that go bang and tear into
flesh - are not absolutely necessary for killing on a large scale,
as we found out in Rwanda, but they certainly help. Murdering
people with a machete is a slow, labour intensive, low productivity.
High technology machinery can work wonders if a high rate of killing
Which is perhaps why there are at least twelve
major, serious Non-Governmental Organisations devoted to studying
and trying to oppose or convert firms away from the arms trade.
The arms trade is huge. Guns and rocket-propelled
grenade launcherss are durable goods that can be easily hidden.
They can be transported across borders. They have no distinctive
smell, apart from the oil that coats them, which is indistinguishable
from the smell of sewing machines or any other machinery. Investigators
have to make a visual or X ray inspection to confirm that a package
contains armaments rather than common machinery. In short, it
is difficult to control arms transactions, arms transfers, arms
exports and arms caches.
On the other hand, armaments are no better than
highly expensive clubs without ammunition, and ammunition has
two give-away characteristics.
Ammunition has a distinctive smell. Sniffer dogs
are routinely trained to identify the presence of ammunition.
Countries and agencies that invested more heavily in sniffer dogs
could prevent the transfer of lethal products across their borders.
They could also use the dogs to lead searches for ammunitions
The other weakness of ammunition lies in its production.
Not only will the factory have a distinctive smell, so that a
clandestine production unit will be open to discovery by the aforementioned
sniffer dogs, but also, in order to produce ammunition, the manufacturer
needs to obtain large quantities of certain chemicals. All it
takes is for these chemicals to be put on a register, and people
ordering large quantities of the precursor chemicals will attract
Therefore it is the contention of this short paper
that the many agencies with an interest in preventing the suffering
and death that follows the use of small arms should concentrate
on controlling the ammunition, not the arms.
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