Google Visualizes Global Arms Trade

Google Maps has come up with an excellent visualization of the global arms trade in small arms and ammunition. Transparency in the global arms trade is low (though reportedly improving). Google and other groups have done an excellent job in pulling back the curtain on the world’s death dealers. Guess who wins?

The United States is, hands down, the largest market for small arms and ammunition. In a marked shift from the early 90’s, the US has increasingly become a major importer of small arms, some of which feeds the domestic market, some of which is procured by the military, and some of which is likely bought at bargain prices and trans-shipped to other destinations through the US. The US now imports large amounts of arms from countries such as Brazil, Russia, Korea and Taiwan.

Gun lobby groups continually send messages about grass roots home protection and fantastical conspiracy theories of doomsday scenarios and jack booted Democrats. It’s quite clear, though, that the small arms trade is major (and growing) part of the world economy. One has to wonder how much grass roots gun rights supporters are being used by a worldwide corporate machine.

Conservative calls for unabated weapon ownership, which clearly has economic drivers, is also an ideological one. Domestic policy friendly to the free trade in guns means international policy that happily encourages the worldwide free trade in weapons. Like domestic ideas that universal ownership will lead to a proactive, strong and paradoxically safer society, worldwide expansion of small arms will eventually lead to safer and freer global trade. The United States, at the behest of the domestic gun lobby, has, in the past, complicated efforts to create international agreements regarding small arms.

The debate is out on whether this is, or is not, true. Domestically, given the myriad factors which determine public safety, teasing out the direct effect of expanded gun ownership on crime is nearly impossible (and no, Switzerland is NOT convincing at all). Internationally, the arguments for expanded militaries is somewhat more convincing. Countries (with the exception of the United States) tend to become more reserved and unwilling to use force once they possess advanced weaponry (ostensibly because of the amount of money it costs to acquire and maintain), though, again, wealthier countries (like Swiss citizens), tend to wish to cooperate economically with their neighbors rather than shoot them.

My feeling is that guns, like bad policies, are easy to make, but difficult to reign in. Having seen people shot (dead) in my lifetime I can’t get behind guns. That someone profits massively off the deaths of those people, makes me ill beyond all description.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

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