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Center for Defense Information

NOVEMBER 30, 2006
11:45 AM

CONTACT: Center for Defense Information
Rachel Stohl, 202.797.5283
Matt Schroeder, 202.454.4693
Dan Smith, 202.547.6000

New Book Exposes Global Impact of the Small Arms Trade
Includes strategies and policy guidance to combat the problem

WASHINGTON - November 30 - 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 – were (and still 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.

A press briefing will be held Dec. 5, 2006, for reporters to learn more about the topics covered in this important new book:

Press Briefing:
When: Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006, 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Where: Carnegie Endowment, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, First Floor, Butler Room
RSVP: Whitney Parker,, 202-797-5287


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