Poor regulation has made the Kalashnikov assault rifle one of the world’s deadliest weapons, according to a new Oxfam report, which found the gun is being used to cause more widespread suffering today than at any time in its 60-year history.
The AK-47 will remain the most widely-used weapon in conflict zones for at least the next 20 years because it is so poorly regulated, according to a new report by the Control Arms campaign.
Many thousands of people are killed every year by the weapon because there is little international control on its production, sale and use, according to the report, called AK-47: The World’s Favourite Killing Machine.
The report estimates that there are up to 70 million AK-47s and variations of its design in the world today. They are found in the state arsenals of at least 82 countries and are produced in at least 14 countries. This is set to increase with Venezuela recently signing a deal for the local assembly of the weapons, the first of its kind in the Americas.
The large number of production facilities throughout the world, the widespread availability of surplus Kalashnikovs, and the absence of global standards to regulate their transfer make it easy for unscrupulous arms brokers, armed militia and criminals to obtain the weapons.
Even AK-47 inventor Lt.-Gen. Mikhail Kalashnikov is calling for tougher controls.
In a statement released to the Control Arms campaign, he said: "Because of the lack of international control over arms sales, small arms easily find their way to anywhere in the world to be used not only for national defence but by aggressors, terrorists and all kinds of criminals […] When I watch TV and see small arms of the AK family in the hands of bandits, I keep asking myself: How did those people get hold of them?"
Control Arms campaigners will hand over the world’s largest visual petition, the Million Faces Petition, to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York. The petition calls for tougher arms controls and contains the images of one million people in more than 160 countries. The number symbolizes the one million people who have been killed by small arms since the Control Arms Campaign began in 2003.
Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: "Out of control and unregulated, AK-47s have been used to murder and maim, fuelling conflict and poverty in the world’s poorest countries. One million people from around the world have signed the petition calling for tougher arms controls. At this UN world conference, governments must agree to global rules for small arms sales and help put an end to this suffering."
Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, added: "The AK-47 is a symbol of the way in which the arms trade has run amok, destroying lives and livelihoods. Only global rules to control who produces the weapons and to whom they are sold, will ensure that they don’t fall into the wrong hands."
"The uncontrolled proliferation of the AK-47, like other guns and light weapons, has led to millions of deaths and massive suffering, particularly in some of the poorest parts of the world," said Rebecca Peters, Director of IANSA. "It will be five years until the next global small arms meeting. If governments don’t take this opportunity to prevent guns falling into the wrong hands, another 1.8 million people will die at gunpoint before there is another chance to take action."
The Control Arms Campaign is a joint initiative by Amnesty International, Oxfam International and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). It aims to reduce arms proliferation and misuse and to convince governments to introduce global principles to regulate the transfers of weapons and a binding Arms Trade Treaty.
Statistics from the report
- On current trends up to 12,000 people will be killed by small arms during the two weeks of the UN world conference on small arms and light weapons.
- An AK-47 can be bought for as little as US$30 in parts of Africa.
- There are an estimated 70 million AK-47s in the world.
- It is estimated that 50 to 60 per cent of weapons used in the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are AK-47s or its derivatives.
- AK-47s are found in the state arsenal of at least 82 countries
- The AK outstrips its nearest rival, the M-16 assault rifle, by 10 to one in terms of numbers produced.
- The AK-47 can be fired at a rate of 600 bullets per minute.
- The Kalashnikov has been produced in at least 14 countries, across four continents