A Farewell to Arms

Gun sales and stockpiles may be booming worldwide, but in Colombia an unusual ceremony saw the destruction of 13,778 handguns, machine guns, rifles and mortars. The weapons were melted down as part of International Gun Destruction Day, and will be used to make school chairs and a memorial for victims of gun violence there. According to Inter Press Service, Colombia has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, and 70 percent of those murders were committed with mostly illegal firearms in 2005. Most of the guns destroyed were taken from gangsters and militias, officials said — while the rest were legally owned, and turned in voluntarily by their owners. In addition to Colombia, International Gun Destruction Day was also observed by Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Albania.

Little Progress for Gun Opponents

Lawmakers raced to propose tougher gun control laws following the Virginia Tech and Montreal school shootings, but each has drawn criticism — and not just from the usual suspects. New rules in Virginia forestall people who have been referred for mental health counseling from buying a gun. The rules are meant to close a “loophole” in the law that let Seung-Hui Cho buy his weapons. But mental health advocates worry it stigmatizes all mentally ill people as violent instead of dealing with a lack of state- run mental health treatment programs.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are looking at tightening state gun laws but aren’t likely to pass restrictions like Virginia’s. An aide to the governor points out that the man who killed five girls in an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County last year had no history of mental illness, and the state could not have stopped him from buying a gun.

Selling Weapons to the World

Newsdesk.org staff report
A new report claims that America’s commitment to peace and security is belied by its status as one of the world’s leading arms dealers. “U.S. Weapons at War,” a study released this month by the New York City-based World Policy Institute, an affiliate of the New School University, finds that American weapons were sold to 18 nations currently involved in “active conflicts” — from U.S.-backed operations against Islamists in the Philippines and narco-militarists in Colombia, to regional power struggles in Angola, Nepal, Algeria, Indonesia, India and Pakistan. This comes in the same breath as a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which finds that in 2004 the nations of the world gave $1.035 trillion to the global arms industry — up 25 percent from 2003. The “primary driver” was the U.S., according to the BBC, which spent $235 billion on the war on terror from 2002-2004. The United States is also one of the leading sellers of weapons.

Drugs, Guns & Politics

By Martin Leatherman & Newsdesk.org staff
Terrorism, political instability and the drug trade have been forged into a single problem, as narcotics take a leading economic role in nations already suffering from violence and poverty. According to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board, Iraq is becoming a major transit country for drugs originating in Afghanistan and entering Jordan en route to Asia and Europe. The president of the U.N. board, Hamid Ghodse, said the situation in Iraq resembles other post-conflict nations, where the aftermath of war or other disasters leaves border security weakened. Similar cases include Colombia, Bolivia and Afghanistan. According to Agence France Presse, the political obstacles to Afghanistan’s war on drugs are huge.