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Connect the Dots: US Gun Laws and the International Arms Trade

Small arms are the weapons of choice in most global conflicts and trading them worldwide is a $5 billion business. Learn more about how these arms are trafficked, and what role, if any, U.S. laws play in their proliferation.

According to the United Nations, there are over 600 million small arms and light weapons in circulation worldwide, and they account for over half a million deaths per year, including 300,000 in armed conflicts. Of 49 major conflicts in the 1990s, 47 were waged with small arms as the weapons of choice.

The UN states: "Small arms destabilize regions, spark, fuel and prolong conflicts, obstruct relief programs, undermine peace, exacerbate human rights abuses, hamper development and foster a 'culture of violence.' Unlike nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, there are no international treaties or other legal instruments for dealing with these weapons."

We spoke with two experts on the small arms trade to understand the scope of the trade and how the US fits into the global picture.

The Interviews:
Matt Schroeder

Rachel Stohl, Senior Analyst,
Center for Defense Information

Rachel Stohl, an expert on weapons trafficking, talks with us about how the international small arms trade works. Other than Kosovo, where else worldwide have US guns ended up fueling internal wars?

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Matt Schroeder

Matt Schroeder, Manager,
The Arms Sales Monitoring Project

Matt Schroeder explains the US laws governing the export of small arms, and reflects on the policy debate. Do these laws apply to civilians, like Florin Krasniqi, who buy weapons in the US and intend to export but not resell them?

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