U.S. Policy Need Not Be Silent on Small Arms   [open pdf - 122KB]

"The spread and misuse of small arms cause, prolong, and exacerbate humanitarian crises around the world. In the last few years, a growing international consensus has emerged that steps must be taken to avoid a world awash in small arms," says Rachel Stohl, a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information, and chair of the U.S. Small Arms Working Group. She urges governments to "look to multilateralize' best practices and develop standards and norms to counter small arms proliferation and misuse." U.S. leadership on small arms issues is vital now more than ever. In the U.S. political sphere, however, small arms trafficking has not been a high priority. Often, policymakers are loathe to get involved in the issue of small arms proliferation because they regard it as an attempt to introduce domestic gun control, or they think the issue is too controversial. Others believe that there are other, more important issues to deal with. Policy options on small arms are abundant and can be implemented with relatively little cost while achieving large and tangible results. First, the United States should lead a moratorium on arms sales to all regions of conflict -- especially ongoing conflicts -- and work with other states to adopt similar moratoria. Second, a criterion outlined in the European Union (EU) Code of Conduct and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Document on Small Arms should be rigorously applied to international small arms exports. Third, the United States as well as other exporting nations should set an example by adopting a policy of export restraint that is designed to prevent diversion and dangerous weapons buildups, based on the existing U.S. policy to "audit, and if necessary, cut off " exports to a state if arms export license applications "exceed the normal, reasonable, domestic needs of a given importing country or show other abnormalities." Fourth, the State Department should ask for, and Congress should grant, continued and increased funding for small arms destruction programs and continued cooperation on weapons destruction and stockpile management, in order to help destroy surplus weapons that would otherwise cascade to regions of conflict. Fifth, the State Department should develop an information-sharing mechanism on United Nations arms embargoes, either within the United Nations or in regional fora. Sixth, the State Department should advocate immediate Senate ratification of the Organization of American States (OAS) convention on small arms trafficking. All of these steps will lead to progress on the issue, but the U.S. government cannot do the work to counter small arms proliferation and misuse alone.

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Small Arms and Light Weapons: U.S. Policy and Views: U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda: An Electronic Journal of the U.S.Department of State, v.6, no.2, p. 23-26
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