in The Media
"Ah, here we go.
The AK47. When you absolutely positively have to kill every motherfucker
in a room... accept no substitute"
-Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Brown
Where else was the AK-47 seen?
In James Bond
GOLDEN EYE they use an 5.45mm AKSU-74 assault rifle as one
of Bond's weapons
1995 © Copyright MGM
"You can be sure it's going
to be in the presidential campaign as a bona fide issue as to whether
the American people want AK-47s, street sweepers and Uzis sold once
again," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., one of the chief
sponsors of the assault weapons ban.
By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer
AK's for $150 ??
An Egyptian AK-47 can
cost $150; a cheap U.S. rifle, $100. Cash-strapped soldiers in Indonesia
sell surplus automatic rifles to enemy rebels for $6. To enemy rebels!
bad guys have AK-47s on TV and movies
This is what would happen
if the assult weapon ban wasn't there to protect us
Posted 1/19/2003 5:43 PM
America's war on terrorism overlooks small-arms trade
Ted C. Fishman
As United Nations inspectors
get closer to unearthing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, President
Bush is pushing U.S. allies ever harder to accept the logic of pre-emptive
strikes that would end the possibility that Iraq would use such
weapons. Indeed, denying murderous dictators chemical, biological
and nuclear weapons is insurance we all can use.
This focus, however,
ignores the weapons terrorists and dictators rely on the most and
that already kill vast numbers every year: small weapons - the pistols,
land mines, assault rifles and handheld grenade and rocket launchers
that flood the world.
At last week's announcement
that the government is searching for ways to protect U.S. airliners
from terrorist attacks using shoulder-held missile launchers, Homeland
Security Director Tom Ridge complained that there was "no quick
fix to the problem." The reason may lie chiefly in the USA's unwillingness
to support coordinated international controls on small weapons -
a vivid illustration of how the administration's worries about offending
the National Rifle Association (NRA) crowd make the world a far
more dangerous place.
The overwrought fears
of American gun owners are bollixing up the war on terrorism. Arms
move easily in a globalized world, and until that world comes together
to stem their flow, new weapons and the ordnance left over from
old wars will continue to fall into our enemies' hands.
The United States has
worked hard to vanquish terrorists' support networks but moved hesitantly
to staunch the pipeline of small arms. At the 2001 U.N. Conference
on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, the United States
fought hard against a proposal to monitor international arms shipments.
The Bush administration fears cooperative enforcement will lead
to foreign powers dictating U.S. gun laws.
John Bolton, the U.S.
undersecretary of State for arms control and international security,
told delegates that the United States does "not support measures
that prohibit civilian possession of small arms," defined generally
by the administration as automatic rifles, machine guns, shoulder-fired
missile and rocket systems. That Bolton's pronouncement closely
aped the NRA's position is no accident. Former Georgia congressman
Bob Barr, an NRA board member, was part of the official U.S. delegation.
The rocket attack
on an Israeli Arkia Airlines flight out of Kenya in November was
executed with old Soviet rockets that had wound their way through
the worldwide weapons bazaar. Far more threatening than the trade
in old materiel, however, is the thriving global small-arms industry
that puts a steady stream of new, better and cheaper weapons not
just in the hands of a few terrorists, but in hundreds of millions
of hands as well. The U.N. estimates that up to half of all small
arms worldwide are held illegally by non-governmental groups: criminals,
warlord armies, terrorists and the like.
The results, not surprisingly,
are deadly. Small arms have been the weapons of choice in 47 of
the 49 largest conflicts since 1992. Victim counts range widely.
The reputable International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear
War, a non-profit group of medical organizations representing more
than 60 countries, puts the number at 6 million and estimates that
half of the victims were killed directly by small arms.
Countries once bootstrapped
their way up the industrial chain by making toys, T-shirts and pajamas.
Now arms production follows the same cycle. In 2002, the Small Arms
Survey in Geneva counted more than 1,000 companies in 98 countries
involved in some aspect of small-arms production.
As with clothing, arms
factories in low-rent locales make brand-name weapons. If export
controls are too stringent in one country, arms producers simply
farm out the manufacturing process to more lenient jurisdictions.
Brazil, India, Indonesia, Iran, North and South Korea, Malaysia,
Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey all export arms made under contract
from major arms-producing countries.
spawn down-market copies. Israel, South Africa and Croatia sell
knockoffs of the AK-47. Often, classics are refashioned for the
new market; assault rifles and rocket launchers are now made lightweight
and idiot proof, perfect for child soldiers.
The glut in small arms
drives down prices. A rifle that sprays hundreds of rounds a minute
costs no more than a pair of designer sneakers. Guns sell next to
soap in the markets of Mogadishu, Somalia, where there are 1 million
assault rifles for 1.3 million people. An
Egyptian AK-47 can cost $150; a cheap U.S. rifle, $100. Cash-strapped
soldiers in Indonesia sell surplus automatic rifles to enemy rebels
for $6. To enemy rebels!
In July 2001, at the
U.N. conference, a proposal to ban the transfer of handheld missile
launchers and missiles - the type that was used against the Israeli
flight - to non-governmental parties received nearly universal support.
This so-called leakage to rebels, terrorists and criminals is one
of the fundamental problems with small arms. Among its strongest
supporters were the nations of Africa, where small weapons destabilize
a whole continent.
The United States'
delegation fought the ban - and prevailed.
The U.S. group
also opposed proposals to register new weapons with identifiable,
inalterable serial numbers. Indelibly marked weapons would be easier
to trace back to their manufacturers and brokers. The 5,000 to 10,000
small rockets that now belong to non-state combatants - including
terrorists who have made U.S. aircraft some of their priority targets
- somehow leaked out of government channels worldwide and into the
black market. If a worldwide serial-number tracking system existed,
the complicit factories and shippers could be rooted out.
The United States and
its allies could exert some powerful incentives against arms manufacturers
whose products end up in the hands of terrorists. Many of the market
players, for instance, operate out of newly capitalist European
countries that long to join NATO, the World Trade Organization or
the European Union. Just as the United States has insisted that
countries with rogue banks reel them in, it could exert pressure
on these countries to ensure that their arms makers act more responsibly.
The arms makers and brokers who undermine our security ought to
expect pre-emptive deterrence, as any enemy threat.
Yet it seems that when
it comes to small arms, fears that international rules will impinge
on American gun makers and gun owners have given the world's most
lethal trade a pass.
Ted C. Fishman is a contributing
editor to Harper's Magazine and Worth and a member of USA TODAY's
board of contributors.