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Small Arms and Light Weapons Control- Austria's Perspective

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Small arms and light weapons, which lack an international agreed definition, generally refer to guns with a 20-millimeter bore size or smaller intended for personal or individual use and weapons to be used by several people acting as an armed or security force respectively. Small arms include rifles, self-loading pistols, revolvers, carbines, and sub and light-machine guns. Light weapons include anti-aircraft guns, portable launchers of anti-tank missiles and rocket systems, and mortars of calibers 100 millimeters or smaller. Because of their size, quantity (there are over 600 million documented worldwide), easy use and concealment, small arms and light weapons are a popular tool in conflicts. During the 1990s, out of 49 major conflicts, an overwhelming 47 were conducted with small arms. The UN continually addresses events in which small arms and light weapons were the main, or only, being the weapons involved. When used by groups who fail to follow international laws, everyday citizens are often the victims, and women and children. The control of small arms and light weapons is critical because of their connections to illegal trafficking made by organizations such as the drug cartel, internal conflicts, and other serious forms of violence.

In June of 2006, the UN held a conference regarding illegal small arms, effective enforcement, better controls and regulation, safer stockpiling, and their collection and destruction. Preceding this event was a UN Program of Action developed in 2001. Said program helped lead over 50 states to toughen their laws in opposition to illegal weaponry, and 60 states to destroy a large majority of their illegal guns. In areas of great need of help, such as Africa, the UN has had many peacekeeping operations run demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration.

Austria has relatively liberal policies regarding the control and sales of small arms and light weapons. However, regarding illegal weaponry, it has taken a stance in support of UN action. In May of 2008, Austria donated €100,000 to a project run by the UN that worked to stop illicit trade of small arms in the Asia-Pacific area.

In 2006, in accordance with the UN’s focus on the destruction of surplus weapons, Austria destroyed 81,481 pieces of 7.62mm Assault Rifles, StG58 and 771 pieces of 7.65mm Pistol, Walther PPK. Austria faces far less threats compared to other countries in areas where violence is more common including South America and Africa. The state has no known “groups...engaged in the illegal manufacture, trade, stockpiling, transfer, possession, as well as financing for acquisition” although a few individual cases have occurred. Despite the significantly less direct involvement of small arms in the state, Austria has worked to comply with standard procedures involving the stockpiling and security of small arms, trade and industrial codes, differentiating between war materials, and the foreign trade act.

In order to gain further control on weapon trafficking, laws that more closely govern the transfer of guns over international borders would be beneficial.
In addition, more programs working directly in states that suffer from continual conflict caused by illicit weapons, such as in South America, Mexico, Africa, and parts of Asia that offer, teach and implement reasonable ways to register, collect, and destroy when applicable, small guns and light weapons would help to reduce the violence and casualties stemming from their usage.





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