Fact Sheet
Bureau of Arms Control
Washington, DC
March 1, 2004

The Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials

The Organization of American States (OAS) on November 14, 1997, adopted the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials. This is the first multilateral treaty designed to prevent, combat, and eradicate illegal transnational trafficking in firearms, ammunition, and explosives. As of March 1, 2004, 21 OAS member states have ratified the Convention (Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucia, Uruguay and Venezuela), and 33 of the 34 active OAS member states (including the United States) have signed. On June 9, 1998, the Convention was submitted to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent to ratification.

The Convention will make the citizens of the hemisphere safer by helping shut down the illicit transnational arms market that fuels the violence associated with drug trafficking, terrorism, and international organized crime. The Convention is an outstanding example of the contribution that the OAS is making to the security of the hemisphere.

While strengthening states’ ability to eradicate illicit arms trafficking, this regional agreement is modeled on U.S. laws, regulations, and practices and protects the legal trade in firearms as well as their lawful ownership and use.

Key Provisions of the Convention

  • Export, Import, and Transit Licenses. To help ensure firearms are transferred only to legitimate users, parties to the Convention are required to establish or maintain an effective licensing or authorization system for the export, import, and transit of firearms, ammunition, explosives, and other related materials. Parties may not permit firearms to be exported from their territory or transited across their borders without proper licensing from the receiving and in-transit countries.
  • Marking of Firearms. To improve the ability to trace illegal firearms, parties to the Convention are obligated to require at the time of manufacture the marking of firearms with the name of manufacturer, place of manufacture, and serial number. Similar identifying markings are required for imported firearms.
  • Criminalization of Illicit Manufacture and Sale. Parties that have not already done so are required to adopt laws and regulations criminalizing the illicit manufacture of and trafficking in firearms, ammunition, explosives, and related materials.
  • Information Exchange. Consistent with their national laws, parties will share information on legislative practices and other national measures to combat illicit trafficking; techniques used to combat money laundering related to illicit transfers; routes customarily used by criminal organizations engaged in illicit trafficking; and the means of concealment used and methods for detecting them.
  • International Coordination. Parties agree to cooperate with one another in the effort to eradicate illicit arms trafficking through a single national point of contact that will act as the formal liaison with other states.
  • Law Enforcement Cooperation. The treaty provides for cooperation between the parties in various fields of law enforcement such as extradition, mutual legal assistance, confiscation, and forfeiture.
  • Technical Assistance and Training. Parties agree to cooperate to ensure adequate training in such areas as identification and tracing; intelligence gathering; and detection methods and search protocols at borders.