In the article “Latin America’s Fatal Gun Addiction,” Robert Muggah discusses the issue of gun violence in Latin America, its connection to legal and illegal weapon trade, and shows the role of the US to the situation. The article demonstrates that the US is contributing to the problem of gun violence, which is an unwanted and adverse side effect of gun trade that is very dangerous for the countries involved. The author suggests the means of improving the situation, which implies that the US can and probably should be involved in the activities aimed at the reduction of this side effect. In this paper, this thesis is going to be considered, and the relationship between gun violence and state fragility will be discussed.
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Gun Violence, Gun Trade, and State Fragility
The US acts as “the world’s largest arms exporter and importer,” and Latin American countries are among their customers (Muggah par. 5). Apparently, the US is not the only supplier of weapons, but its share in the market is most notable. The year 2010, for example, saw the peak of the arms trade in the US, and its value at the time amounted to $172.7 million (Muggah par. 6). Moreover, as of recently, the export of arms and ammunition to Latin America has increased together with the attempts of the governments to battle guerrillas and drug traffickers (Muggah par. 7).
The countries of Latin America consume various weaponry products; for example, some of them request military defense weapons (the missiles for Brazil) while others import the arms for crime-fighting (for instance, light weapons for Colombia). In other words, the international gun trade is primarily aimed at improving state stability and helping governments to protect their borders and sovereignty and battle crime. Naturally, such is the ideal state of events.
In reality, legally traded weapons can end up in the hands of terrorists and other criminals as well as aggressive opposition. Moreover, illegal trade is also an issue, even though, according to Muggah, it occurs to a smaller share of US-produced weapons. These guns are most likely to contribute to the problem of gun violence and, therefore, to the state fragility.
The fact that gun violence is directly connected to state fragility cannot be denied. Naturally, it is not the only reason for instability, but its role is noteworthy, especially in Latin America. According to the statics provided by Muggah, the homicide rate in various regions of Latin Amerca is four times greater than the average in the world, and “47 of the world’s 50 most murderous cities are in Latin America and the Caribbean” (par. 4).
Given the fact that most of these deaths (up to 90% in certain regions) are the result of gunshots, it is impossible to deny that weapon trade (legal or not) is connected to the problem of gun violence(Muggah par. 18). As a result, gun violence and subsequent state fragility can be considered an unwanted side effect of weapons trade, which implies that the parties involved would be expected to attempt to mitigate the consequences.
Limiting Negative Consequences
The countries of Latin America are expected to experience an increase in armed violence in the upcoming years (Muggah par. 22). Muggah dwells on the possible solutions at length.
It is apparent that the responsibility for the problem is shared between the US and the countries that suffer from this kind of trade. Muggah supports this idea. To use the author’s metaphor of addiction, it is impossible to deny the responsibility of the dealer. The statistics clearly show that the number of crimes that have been carried out with guns (including the American ones) is disturbing.
Similarly, it is apparent that guns increase the chances of grave outcomes of various types of conflicts and violence (from a family argument to a home invasion). Moreover, since most of the guns are transported legally, the US is provided with the tools and opportunity for their control; the illegal market is apparently less easy to monitor. At the same time, as rightfully pointed out by Muggah, “rifles and handguns alone do not cause homicide or violent crime” (par. 4). The countries need to battle their addiction, in particular, to avoid obtaining new dealers and to reduce violence as a phenomenon.
Muggah makes a number of suggestions of the possible activities that could help to regulate the situation and reduce the cases of law violations. The countries that buy weaponry from the US could benefit from improved legislation or more diligent enforcement of existing laws, in particular, those related to border control and the management of governmental and private arsenals. Also, the countries need to combat corruption, especially in law enforcement.
In other words, the countries need to be responsible for their import practices and the management of the weapons that are already in possession within their borders. The US, on the other hand, would be expected to be held responsible for the export procedures. Muggah insists that the transparency of the trade can be improved through legislation (ratifying Arms Trade Treaty), and enhanced supervision of local retailers. Similarly, the monitoring programs that already exist should be supported, and new ones might need to be developed. An example of a monitoring program is the Blue Lantern that is busy with individual transfers and their legitimacy (Muggah par. 20).
Also, improved cooperation with Latin America can become a way of changing the situation. For instance, the eTrace system that was developed in the US to monitor the trafficking of goods has been working in Latin America since 2009 (Muggah par. 11). This system is an example of successful cooperation. Also, the cooperation with the countries can be used to encourage them to comply with international law and work with the UN Conventional Arms Register. To sum up, the US has multiple means of combating the issue of drug addiction in Latin America, which can be used to demonstrate that the country is concerned with the global problems, which are the adverse, unwanted side effects of its generally favorable activities.
Gun violence in Latin America is an adverse and state-endangering side effect of gun production and trade, to which the US unintentionally contributes. However, the fact of contribution also means that the US has the opportunity to improve the situation. It should be pointed out that only the country that is “addicted” to the US guns is capable of fully controlling the issue, but the US can facilitate its “treatment” and position itself as a responsible exporter of this particular kind of goods.
A large share of the weapon trade is legal, and the US has the potential of improving the control over the illegal trafficking, which means that the country is capable of reducing gun violence in Latin America.
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Muggah, Robert. “Latin America’s Fatal Gun Addiction.” Foreign Affairs, 2016. Web.