There’s not a lot of literature establishing the arms trade as a cause of conflict and violence. There’s lots of evidence showing the toll of small arms in killing and maiming civilian populations, however. I’ll try to accumulate whatever evidence I can find linking arms sales with the start of conflict. (One good place might be the sale of arms to Georgia, which permitted the Georgian government a level of beligerence that led to a brush war with Russia).
Here’s one that looks good and needs to be read and summarised. (Help me?) Review Conference on the Illicit Small Arms Trade, 27 June 2006
Here’s a reference where Oxfam states that small arms don’t start wars. Global Military Spending Set to Top Cold War High As Conflict Causes Hunger, Oxfam International, 20 September, 2006
“Year on year arms spending escalates and year on year conflicts are causing more hunger and suffering. Arms sales do not start conflicts, but they certainly fuel and lengthen them. It is time the world stemmed the uncontrolled flood of weapons into the world’s war zones. The world must agree to start work on an Arms Trade Treaty this October,” said Bernice Romero, Oxfam International’s Campaigns Director.
Another great summary:
Anup Shah, Small Arms—they cause 90% of civilian casualties, GlobalIssues.org, Last updated: Saturday, January 21, 2006
Yet another great article, this time with a map showing the main arms producer, and the conflict areas where they are used. Alex Steffan, Ending the Small Arms Trade, World Changing, 2 January, 2007