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Small Arms Survey 2008 Examines the Preventable Diversion of Small Arms

Small Arms Survey 2008 Examines the Preventable Diversion of Small Arms

Author: Monica Amarelo

Type: Release

Matthew Schroeder, project manager of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project, examines the problem of diversion as related to stockpiles, international transfers, and end-user documentation in a chapter entitled "Deadly Deception - Arms Transfer Diversion" of the Small Arms Survey 2008.

The diversion of small arms and light weapons is a major source of firearms for criminals and insurgents around the world. Diverted arms shipments—in which arms are redirected to unauthorized end users—can range from small packages of components for civilian firearms to hundred-ton shipments of military-grade light weapons. The redirection can occur at any moment in the transfer chain and may involve the participation of corrupt government officials.

Arms transfer diversion is responsible for some of the largest and most lethal shipments of small arms and light weapons to conflict zones and regions plagued by violent crime and instability. Some of these shipments are so large that they rival—in quantity and quality—the weapons available to the armed forces of small countries.

Diversion takes many forms, ranging from small consignments of firearms components that are acquired legally and then illicitly assembled and sold online to the massive arms shipments organized by the so-called ‘Merchants of Death’ that are flown to remote jungle locations in Soviet-era military aircraft. The routes, methods, and modes of transport employed by traffickers also vary significantly from case to case.

Diversion also occurs throughout the transfer chain—from the moment that the shipment is loaded onto ships or planes at the port of exit (point of embarkation) to years after the weapons are received by the intended end-user (post-delivery). The ability of governments to effectively detect and prevent diversion varies from case to case.

Light weapons pose serious threats to human security. A shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile—known as a man-portable air defense system, or MANPADS—can be used to shoot down a civilian airliner with hundreds of passengers on board. Superior explosive power, technological sophistication, and range distinguish light weapons from small arms, and justify public concern over their illicit proliferation.

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