Lora Lumpe (ed), 'Running Guns'

IssueDecember 2000 - February 2001
Review by Martyn Lowe

This is a book which looks at what has traditionally been regarded as “gun running”, but which is in reality a covert aspect of many nations' foreign policy.

This covers the “small arms” (guns and rifles to you and me), which are used to fuel many of the world's civil wars. This includes arms that are also sold on, from nation to nation and from nation to insurrectionary groups, as a form of covert government activity. Plus arms which might publicly be represented as a form of aid to client states, but which are by many regarded as a form of currency. Ultimately these are the arms which cause “as much 90% of the world's combat-related killings”. Running Guns is a book that was put together for the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, and the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers, as part of an initiative to combat the trade. It has a series of essays on aspects of this “trade” such as: “Government gunrunning to guerrillas” and “Domestic gun makers: the licit-illicit links”.

This is essential reading for those who wish to learn about how the trade and exchange of “small arms” has fuelled wars in places such as Afghanistan and Rwanda.

There is also a chapter which covers the various relevant aspects of international law, treaty obligations, trade sanctions and licensing regulations. And while this is perhaps the driest and most difficult part of the book, it is probably essential reading for anyone campaigning on the issue.

This is a book which is both extensively and excellently footnoted, with many of the notes referring to webpages. It also has a very useful “Summary of recommendations for states and citizens”.

For more information about the organisations behind this book, see their websites, which are well worth looking at. (Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers http://www.nisat.org/ and the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo http://www.prio.no/.)

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