‘Regulate ammunition, silence illegal guns’
March 8, 2013

‘Regulate ammunition, silence illegal guns’

This country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Camillo Gonsalves, believes that the best way to silence illegal guns is by regulating their ammunition.{{more}}

Gonsalves, the deputy chair at the just concluded Fourth Regional Workshop on Negotiations for the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, joined with other presenters in making the call for a greater stance on the regulation of ammunition, which has been referred to as a major challenge and “sticking point” during previous arms treaty talks.

“The issue of ammunition, in my humble estimation, remains one of the more significant concerns in the current draft treaty,” Gonsalves said during his presentation at the opening of the conference, which took place at the National Insurances Service conference room.

“To exclude ammunition from the scope of the treaty could seriously compromise the stated goal of the treaty to ‘prevent from contributing to human suffering’,” he added.

“Strengthening provisions against ammunition would not be easy… but we should not be deterred by our apparently opposed negotiating stance against ammunition.

“We know that our friends in the United States are also grappling with the scourge of gun violence and its regulation.

“We must engage with them more fully and seek creative solutions to its impasse without compromising our interest in

the greater regulation of ammunition flows to our region.”

Gonsalves put the issue of arms and ammunition in a regional and global context, and determined that ammunition, in this case bullets, create as much of a threat to regional stability as firearms (handguns, rifles and light machine guns).

“Every year the ammunition industry produces an estimated two bullets for every single man, woman and child on the planet earth.

“The industry produces enough bullets in 365 days to shoot every human being on the planet twice,” Gonsalves pointed out.

“If, miraculously, an arms trade treaty allows us to completely halt the flow of firearms to our region, the fact is, that there are already enough guns within the region to cause instability and thwart development for decades to come.

The same guns that were involved in thousands of shootings across CARICOM last year, are still lurking in the shadows of our region. The way to silence these guns is to treat ammunition with the same regulatory rigour that we propose for firearms.”

Caribbean Coalition for Development and Reduction of Armed Violence’s Folade Mutota, who also spoke at the workshop’s opening, earlier pointed out that she hoped the two-day workshop would help the region to gain an arms trade treaty built on the principles of human rights to be sustained by the regulation of ammunition.

“It is interesting who are the actors in favour of including ammunition in the scope of the treaty; and these include CARICOM. And it is also interesting who is not in favour of including it,” she noted.

“So when we say we want a robust ATT, we are talking about saving lives now and in the future, but we also talking about removing the burden from those who are least able or prepared to carry it. Losing lives every day in our communities has a cost, it is an economic and social burden that our countries bear and we lose opportunities….”

Ambassador Eden Charles, CARICOM’s lead negotiator at the international talks, also touched on the troubling issue of arms and ammunition regulations.

Charles pointed out that the ATT was not a disarmament instrument, but rather to regulate the trade of conventional weapons and conventional weapons include small arms and light weapons, the ammunition parts and components.

“One may be surprised that while we have… the regulation for trade in endangered species, trade in tobacco, trade in sugar… there are no common rules for trade in weapons.

“As a result of the absence of commonly agreed internationals standard or rules, diversion takes place. Diversion from the legal market to the illegal market, and the consequence of diversion is in our space in CARICOM: illegal weapons finding themselves in the hands of gangsters who are causing mayhem up and down the archipelago.

“Illegal weapons in the hands of drug traffickers, illegal weapons in the hands of those involved in trans-boundary organized crime.

“Governments up and down the region have expended tremendous resources, which could have been used for sustainable development in an effort to curb or contain this scourge,” Charles said.

The regional delegates will next head to the United Nations in New York from March 18 to 28, where they will debate the current arms treaty draft.(JJ)