Ms. Laura Haigh
UN Liaison International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA)
5th Floor 777 United Nations Plaza New York, NY, 10017-3521 USA Dear Ms Haigh
I understand that you are the NGO point of contact for the Open-Ended Working Group on Tracing Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons (OEWG). Although I am not formally a speaker for any NGO, I am a long term activist with the Green Party of England and Wales, which is effectively an NGO since the electoral system in the UK excludes us from government, so I hope that you will be open to the following proposition. Guns are durable goods that can be easily hidden. They can be transported across borders. They have no distinctive smell, apart from the oil that coats them, which is indistinguishable from the smell of any other machinery. Investigators have to make a visual or X ray inspection to confirm that a package contains armaments rather than common machinery. In short, it is difficult to control arms transactions, arms transfers, arms exports and arms caches. Ammunition has a distinctive smell. Sniffer dogs are routinely trained to identify the presence of ammunition. Countries and agencies that invested in sniffer dogs could prevent the transfer of lethal products across their borders. They could also use the dogs to lead searches for ammunitions caches and munitions factories. Sniffer dogs are an established and effective way of identifying the presence of ammunition. Therefore the many agencies with an interest in preventing the suffering and death that follows the use of small arms should concentrate on controlling the ammunition, as well as the arms.
[please feel free to copy and paste this one, to add weight to it. It is an important matter.
Between 10 and 14 billion bullets are manufactured every year. Of these, there is an official trace for only 17%. Ukraine and Belarus alone are known to have stockpiles of around 3,000,000 tonnes of ammunition. There is an effort going on to secure an international agreement on small arms and light weapons. The main NGOs lobbying on this are Oxfam, Amnesty International and IANSA - International Action Network on Small Arms. Oxfam published a report, Ammunition: the fuel of conflict, 15 June 2006. Governments in the UN are trying to negotiate a new international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) to regulate transfers of all conventional arms, including ammunition. There are several UN bodies dealing with the matter, but it is at the moment unclear what the next step will be. Real political and practical action will be difficult because of the powerful vested interests involved, and because the USA, with its pathologically strong gun lobby, is the main arms exporter.]