Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2009

Small Arms and Light Weapons

June 2009

International Peace Institute


Small arms and light weapons (SALW) enable and facilitate armed conflict, terrorism, and crime. Today, they remain among the cheapest and most easily accessible instruments for participating in violence. Despite our understanding of the threat posed by SALW to peace and security, development and human rights, deep-rooted differences remain on how to stem their ill effects, in particular the passage of weapons from the licit realm to the illicit. Even the domestic passage of SALW to the illicit realm can, ultimately, have transnational effects, fueling conflict, crime, and terrorism. Globally effective SALW control is difficult. SALW are easily produced, concealed, and transferred. And they are already abundant and very widely distributed, with at least 875 million SALW currently in circulation.