South African Gun Owners’ Association

Alex Holmes

UN Conference On Small Arms

July 16, 2001

Our continent, Africa, has a sad and ongoing history of turmoil and armed conflict. 

Given that tragic fact we would strongly support effective measures to reduce the terrible toll in human life that these conflicts exact.

 However we are greatly concerned that there is a danger of a lack of focus on the real issues.

 In particular the overly broad definition of small arms, to include sporting firearms, and the call to restrict legitimate civilian possession of sporting arms, are problematic.

 These issues are contentious and endanger the success of this conference. Restrictions on the possession of sporting arms will serve no purpose in reducing armed conflict and simply distract attention and resources away from the core issue, the transfer of military weapons.

 Throughout this conference we have seen continuous reference to wars, mentioned in the same breath as civilian possession of sporting arms.

 This falsely suggests that the one causes the other. Wars are not fought with sporting arms but with military weapons. We believe that a proper and accurate definition of military small arms would allow broader support and in so doing strengthen the proposed agreement.

 Too broad a definition also opens the door to unintended consequences.

 In Africa hunting plays a considerable role in the economies and foreign exchange earnings of many countries.

 Hundreds of millions of dollars flow into these countries annually as a direct result of hunting activity.

 We must assume that this conference has no intention of interfering with such legitimate activities. However, if the proposed definition of small arms is accepted, this can and will happen.

 The United Kingdom recently banned the export of firearms to Zimbabwe. They used the same broad definitions proposed here.

 British Airways immediately enforced this ban and refused to transport hunting firearms to Zimbabwe. They also misinterpreted a similar ban on Tanzania.

 The net result was a huge loss in legitimate income to these countries.

 The possibility of regional embargoes will increase the risks of such unintended consequences. It is entirely feasible that a poorly worded definition, applied on a regional basis, could have disastrous effects on the entire safari industry.

 We implore the delegations gathered here to carefully consider these concerns and to return the focus clearly to the real issue, the illicit trade in military weapons.

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