Saturday September 25, 2021

Arms and the world

July 08, 2018

In Pakistan, we often consider ourselves to be one of the most militarised societies in the world. A recent report by Small Arms Survey, a global weapons watchdog, has confirmed that Pakistan is not alone when it comes to a large number of privately owned guns. Most of the world’s guns are in the possession of civilians in the developed world. Many of the figures shared by the report are shocking. For example, civilians own 85 percent of the world’s firearms. This is not a small figure at all. And it is rising. In the US, weapons companies have continuously sold the message that civilians need guns to protect themselves. This has led to a situation where nearly 40 percent of all the world’s firearms are in the hands of US citizens. That means that four percent of the world’s population owns 40 percent of its firearms. This is far higher than countries considered war-torn. International policymakers often use firearm possession by citizens to see if a country is a ‘failing state’ or not. By the same metric, where would the US fall?

Of course, the US presents a more unique situation. The right to bear arms is protected by the country’s constitution, which is technically even supposed to allow the right to rebel against an oppressive government. The reality, of course, is that US citizens are not bearing arms to rebel against the state, but rather for what they understand as ‘self-protection.’ This proliferation of guns in the US is behind the culture of mass shootings, which has increasingly become a hallmark of the superpower. There is obviously a need for a more state-centred approach to gun ownership. Civilians must only rarely be in possession of guns. This principle has also been ignored with the rise of private security forces – which have proliferated after the war on terror. The situation is raising questions over the true conception of citizenship we operate under. The traditional idea that the state is responsible for protecting life and liberty seems to have dissipated, with civilians feeling that they must protect themselves. The number of firearms has grown by 17 percent over the last ten years. These figures raise serious about question what the future of the world will be.