Tuesday, March 15, 2005

It is rare that I get to exercise my profound disgust at those who wish to control arms and venture into foreign policy by deriding their revolting attempts to internationalise this issue through an "arms control" treaty. It is not surprising that this immoral act is perpetrated by the Blair administration: a clique that is unable to understand the simple connection between the rule of law and a well armed citizenry.

There is a question concerning the relationship between guns and gangsterism that bedevils third world countries but the control of arms sounds suspiciously like that 'success story': the war on drugs. Jack Straw's keen attempt to follow the NGOs on this matter was publicised at a press conference today:

Straw argued that existing treaties covering chemical, biological and nuclear weapons should be matched by a new treaty covering smaller weapons. And he acknowledged that such weapons "account for far more misery and destruction across the world". "The new treaty needs to include a wide range of signatories, including the world's major arms exporters," he said. "I certainly do not underestimate the difficulties of that. Many nations are concerned that a new arms trade treaty may restrict their defence industries; constrain their foreign policy; and lead to constant legal challenge of export licence decisions. Their approach may initially be one of scepticism, at best. "But in order for it to work properly, a new arms control treaty will need to include as many of the world's nations as possible - especially those with strong defence industries of their own.

The NGO campaign for this solution stems from the revolutionary liberalism redolent of Enlightenment manure. Instead of undertaking the patient steps of building stable laws in these territories and defending property, these organisations prefer to build a bureaucratic edifice of controls, inspections and treaties, a job creation scheme for peace studies graduates.

The Control Arms Campaign is co-ordinated by Oxfam and Amnesty International. They view the proliferation of firearms as a key threat to peace and security. They are right in that technology has lowered the cost of owning firearms and has allowed the strong to plunder the weak; governments or gangs to maim, murder and steal. (Although the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 did not require firearms, just edged weapons).

However, their solution is old-fashioned, insensitive to local conditions, and designed to reinforce the status quo in many states, rotten as they are. Their solution is global arms control:

Governments must introduce new laws and measures to incorporate the principles of the Arms Trade Treaty. They must also close the loopholes in their arms controls so that they can strictly monitor end use and effectively control arms brokers and licenced production overseas. They must stop the misuse of arms by security services and introduce systems of accountability and training for them, introduce measures for disarmament when a conflict has ended, develop good justice systems for prosecuting those who misuse arms, enforce all arms control legislation and develop and implement a national action plan to address and solve the country's arms problems.

Communities and local authorities must help collect and destroy surplus and illegal weapons, introduce community education programs to end cultures of violence, provide assistance to victims of armed violence, and provide alternative livelihoods for those who depend on violence for a living.

Only the police are considered suitable to carry guns in protection of communities if they follow the requisite standards:

International standards do exist to control the use of guns and other methods of force by police and other law enforcement officials, but in many countries they are not being followed.These standards centre on the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. At their heart is the principle of what constitutes legitimate force. Police must sometimes be permitted to use force or lethal force, in order to do their job of keeping communities safe and protecting themselves and the public from life-threatening attacks. But the force used must not be arbitrary; it must be proportionate, necessary and lawful. And, crucially, it must only be used in self defence or against the imminent threat of death or serious injury.

Self defence for the private individual in defence of life, liberty and property is not included within this 'solution'.


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