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New Book Exposes Global Impact of the Small Arms Trade

New Book Exposes Global Impact of the Small Arms Trade


Type: Release

The Small Arms Trade covers everything from gun-toting militias to child soldiers to terrorists armed with shoulder-fired missiles, and is loaded with fascinating anecdotes and disturbing statistics. This captivating new book provides a gripping overview of the global impact that these cheap and easily obtainable weapons have had, the extent of their proliferation, the threat they pose in the wrong hands, and strategies for reigning in this deadly scourge.

Nearly 640 million small arms and light weapons – pistols, carbines, assault rifles, light machine guns and surface to air missiles – are in circulation around the world. In the hands of irresponsible government armies, rebel groups, and terrorists, these weapons cause tremendous human suffering.

The wars that ravaged Central America and that continue in Afghanistan, Liberia, the Sudan and dozens of other countries – wars in which millions of innocent men, women and children have died and millions more have been deprived of the economic opportunities –are fought primarily with small arms. Drug lords use them to eliminate competitors and assassinate government officials, abusive governments use them to suppress internal dissent and silence opposition, insurgents use them to kill soldiers on patrol, terrorists use them to elicit fear... the list goes on and on.

“Small arms are the true weapons of individual destruction,” said Rachel Stohl, senior analyst at the World Security Institute's Center for Defense Information. “Controlling these deadly weapons requires national governments, regional organizations, and international institutions to work cooperatively. They must simultaneously control supply, take existing weapons out of circulation, end misuse, and address demand.”

On the other end of the technological spectrum is the "terrorist delight"— the portable, guided missiles that have become a favorite weapon of terrorists and insurgents. They are plentiful, easy to use, and extremely effective. Nearly a million missiles have been produced by over 20 countries, and thousands of those missiles are now outside of government control.

“Shoulder-fired missiles are a terrorist's dream and a law enforcement nightmare,” claims FAS analyst Matt Schroeder. “For less than the cost of a used car, a terrorist can cripple a commercial airliner, and with it the airline industry.”

And what of the future?

“If there is any good news, it is the apparent absence in the foreseeable future of any revolutionary breakthrough in small arms technology such as the machine gun proved to be at the end of the 19th century,” said Dan Smith, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran.

Having traced the general evolution of firearms to the advent of the assault rifle and MANPADs, Smith ends the book on the cautionary note that even the most stringent accountability “will never stop the steady trickle of weapons” moving between conflicts. That requires winning “hearts and minds…one person at a time.”

Authored by Rachel Stohl of the Center for Defense Information, Matthew Schroeder of the Federation of American Scientists and retired Col. Daniel Smith (U.S. Army) of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, The Small Arms Trade highlights one of the most pressing threats of the 21st century – the proliferation and misuse of small arms.

About Center for Defense Information (
The Center for Defense Information (CDI) provides expert analysis on various components of U.S. national security, international security and defense policy. CDI promotes wide-ranging discussion and debate on security issues such as nuclear weapons, space security, missile defense, small arms and military transformation. To ensure the ability to provide objective analysis, CDI accepts no U.S. government or defense industry funding. To encourage the intellectual freedom of the staff, CDI does not hold policy positions. CDI is part of the World Security Institute, whose divisions include the Center for Defense Information, International Media, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Azimuth Media and International Programs with offices in Brussels, Cairo and Moscow, and projects in China.

About Federation of American Scientists (
The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) was formed in 1945 by atomic scientists from the Manhattan Project who felt that scientists, engineers and other innovators had an ethical obligation to bring their knowledge and experience to bear on critical national decisions, especially pertaining to the technology they unleashed - the Atomic Bomb. Endorsed by 68 Nobel Laureates in chemistry, economics, medicine and physics, FAS addresses a broad spectrum of issues in carrying out its mission to promote humanitarian uses of science and technology. FAS members build on an honorable history of insisting that rational, evidence-based arguments be heard.

About Friends Committee on National Legislation (
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) is the largest peace lobby in Washington, DC. Founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), FCNL staff and volunteers work with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people from many different races, religions, and cultures to advocate social and economic justice, peace, and good government.

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