The life cycle of a handgun is, on average, 30 to 50 years. Using handguns is so easy that many who fire them are younger than their weapon. Unfortunately, so are many of the victims. Far too many of the 875 million small arms in circulation worldwide were traded illegally and have fallen into the wrong hands. An international event – the Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence – is drawing attention to this problem. The Federal Foreign Office and many of its missions abroad are participating in the campaign.
Controversial debate on Facebook
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people fall victim to firearms. One would therefore not expect a call to join the movement against gun violence to meet with much opposition. However, the Facebook page of the Federal Foreign Office has in fact received quite a few critical comments, for example: Without firearms, how are we supposed to protect ourselves from terrorists? Is this an attack on hunters and recreational users of firearms? How can the campaign be reconciled with arms exports?
Combating illegal trade in small arms
Of course, this campaign does not aim to disarm police officers or disband the Federal Armed Forces. It seeks to support the UN Programme of Action on illicit trade in small arms, so that criminals and terrorists are prevented from obtaining weapons. So this in no way affects state security forces or law‑abiding shooting associations.
What about arms exports?
When taking a closer look, there is also an explanation for the apparent contradiction between the Federal Government’s action on small arms and its record of authorising arms exports. Two fundamental principles are key in this regard: First, arms exports are not tied to economic policy. This means, essentially, that it’s not about money. Second, no items can be exported without an export license. Strict rules must be adhered to, and every individual case is carefully examined.
A large share of arms exports goes to our EU and NATO partners. Because these countries and Germany form a defence alliance, such exports also help to protect us. Exports to third countries outside of these alliances are subjected to particularly thorough examination. The need to maintain peace, security and stability are key factors in this regard.
Stability saves lives
The restrictive granting of export licenses is therefore fully in line with Germany’s efforts to promote peace and disarmament. Sad examples in Somalia, Libya, and IS‑controlled territories in Syria and Iraq demonstrate, time and again, that failing states and instability can claim countless lives. To achieve stable state structures, state security forces must be properly equipped.
What is the Federal Foreign Office doing?
During the Week of Action, the Federal Foreign Office and its missions abroad are presenting a selection of their projects. These range from disarming FARC guerrillas in Colombia to controlling firearms used by private security services to reducing the stockpile of surplus arms in Central and Eastern Europe that date from the Cold War era. For more information, or to join the discussion, please visit the Federal Foreign Office’s Facebook page.