Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.– Isaiah 2:4
PROBLEMS WITH CONTROLLING ILLICIT TRADE IN SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS
Weapons of war have become much more sophisticated than the swords and spears that were popular in the days of Isaiah. Indeed, most international efforts in the arms control and disarmament arena, with the notable exception of land mines, have focused on weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical, and biological. Most wars are fought, however, and most people have been killed, not by weapons of mass destruction but by small arms and light weapons – such as pistols, assault rifles, and hand grenades. It has been estimated that some 6 million people have been killed in armed conflicts around the world in the last decade, half of them by small arms, rather than by tanks and rockets. Most of these armed conflicts have been civil wars rather than cross-border conflicts.
This killing is greatly abetted by a thriving trade in arms, with between 4 to 6 billion weapons a year changing hands. The biggest-grossing producers involved in this arms trade are the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia – four of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Together, these four countries export 83 percent of the world's arms. The United States is the leading exporter of such weapons. In 2006 the amount of U.S. authorized small arms exports was valued at $643 million, according to the Small Arms Survey, a nongovernmental organization based in Geneva.