The proliferation of illegal weapons has been likened to a cancer spreading across the developed and developing world. Development economist Paul Collier has referred to armed conflict as “social and economic development in reverse,” and chronic patterns of armed conflict are fundamentally sustained, more than anything else, by (typically illicit) supplies of small arms and light weapons (SALW). Furthermore, international law-enforcement agencies suggest that the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons represents one of the major security threats facing the 21st century, contributing to problems of terrorism, regional instability, failed states, international drug trafficking, urban gang weaponization, and other organized crime.

Although poorer societies typically bear the brunt of these problems, more developed societies (among which are often the leading producers and exporters of ...

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