Small arms

The Methodist Church is working to reduce gun violence.

What are small arms?

Small arms are weapons that can be carried by a single person, either for military or civilian use. They include weapons such as grenades, hand-guns, landmines, light missiles, mortars, pistols, and sub-machine guns. Eight million small arms are produced every year.

Why is the issue of small arms an important one?

The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) describes small arms as 'weapons of mass destruction.'

More people are killed by small arms in a year than by larger weapons such as tanks, warships or bomber jets. Almost one person every minute is killed by a bullet from a gun. Men, as the main buyers, owners and users of small arms are the most direct casualties of gun violence.

However, women are victimised to a disproportionate degree; they are particularly at risk of violence in the home, and rape at gunpoint. Children too suffer greatly as a result of small arms: according to the Control Arms Campaign, 'an estimated 300,000 children are working as soldiers in conflicts around the world.'

The violence caused by small arms hinders a country's development, and leads to an unwillingness on the part of other countries to provide humanitarian aid.

Surely there are rules controlling the spread of small arms!

The arms industry suffers from lack of regulation, widespread corruption, and bribes. Loopholes allow arms dealers to bypass arms controls. As a result, access to weapons is easy. There are no binding international laws to stop small arms falling into the possession of killers and human rights abusers.

What does the Methodist Church say about small arms?

The Methodist Church is strongly critical of the arms trade, and is committed to working towards a more peaceful world, as Christians are encouraged to do (James 3:18). The 1997 Methodist Conference described the action they took concerning small arms in that year:

'Over the past year the Methodist Church along with ecumenical partners has been active in calling on HM Government to stop producing arms sales and to make investment available for the conversion of arms-producing industries to other, non-lethal forms of production. The Methodist Church has been active through the Peace Forum of the CCBI, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) and the Land Mines Campaign.'

The Church urged the UK government to support an International Arms Trade Treaty (IATT). An IATT would prevent states from transferring arms that would be used in serious violations of human rights or that would hinder sustainable development. States would also have to be more open and transparent where arms transfers are concerned.

For further information

The following sites provide information about small arms and tell you how you can get involved in campaigns:

Campaign Against Arms Trade: www.caat.org.uk  

Control Arms Campaign: www.controlarms.org  

UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office: www.fco.gov.uk (search for 'small arms')

International Action Network on Small Arms: www.iansa.org  

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