small arms survey 2011

Dec 17, 1993 - Balancing Act: Regulation of ..... (summary) 3–7 years; ..... With the adoption of its Arms Act in 1983, New Zealand moved away from a system of ...
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A Project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

small arms survey 2011

states of security Chapter 9 Balancing Act: Regulation of Civilian Firearm Possession By Sarah Parker

small arms survey 2011 states of security About the Small Arms Survey The Small Arms Survey is an independent research project located at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. It serves as the principal source of public information on all aspects of small arms and armed violence and as a resource centre for governments, policy-makers, researchers, and activists. The project has an international staff with expertise in security studies, political science, law, economics, development studies, sociology, and criminology, and collaborates with a network of partners in more than 50 countries. Small Arms Survey Graduate Institute of International Studies 47 Avenue Blanc 1202 Geneva Switzerland t f e w

+41 22 908 5777 +41 22 732 2738 [email protected] www.smallarmssurvey.org

‘The case studies and analysis contained in the Small Arms Survey 2011 will benefit policy-makers, researchers, and all those concerned with understanding and responding to modern security and development challenges.’ —J. Brian Atwood Chair, Development Assistance Committee Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ‘The fine-grain information presented in the Small Arms Survey 2011 will be particularly useful to those helping states to rebuild or strengthen their security sectors, and to everyone looking to understand the roles that private security actors are adopting alongside public forces.’ —Ambassador Dr. Theodor H. Winkler Director, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces ‘In assessing the state of private security forces, the 2011 Survey draws attention to weaknesses in record-keeping regarding the acquisition, management, and use of firearms as well as the near absence of mechanisms to ensure that personnel do not engage in human rights abuses.’ —José L. Gómez del Prado Chair, United Nations Working Group on Mercenaries

Cover photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Copy-editing: Tania Inowlocki Proofreading: John Linnegar Design and layout: Richard Jones ([email protected]) Printer: nbmedia, Geneva

Balancing Act REGULATION OF CIVILIAN FIREARM POSSESSION INTRODUCTION In all but a handful of countries around the world,1 civilians are permitted to purchase and possess firearms—with restrictions. While only a fraction of the world’s civilians own guns, they possess a total of some 650 million—representing nearly three-quarters of the global firearm arsenal or approximately three times the number held by national armed forces and law enforcement (Small Arms Survey, 2007, p. 43; 2010, pp. 101–02). Permitted civilian uses of firearms typically include sport shooting, hunting, self-defence, and some types of professional work. Underpinning most national approaches to civilian firearm possession is an attempt to balance the prevention of social harm (crime, interpersonal violence, and suicide) with legitimate civilian use. Although civilian firearm regulation has been debated in multilateral circles over the past two decades, it has largely eluded international control efforts. It is the prerogative of each country, based on its own mix of cultural, historical, and constitutional factors, to regulate civilian gun ownership as it sees fit. The resulting complexity and diversity of approaches make a comparative analysis of states’ efforts to regulate civilian possession very difficult, and thus relatively few such studies have been undertaken. This chapter seeks to fill this gap by analysing the legislation governing civilian access to and use of firearms in a sample of 42 jurisdictions (28 countries and 14 sub-national entities). The chapter aims to illustrate both the diversity of existing laws and their common features and foundations. The chapter does not, however,