With British machine gun maker Manroy poised to expand its operations, and the UK eager to step up exports, Britain will be expanding its role in the misery caused by small arms in conflicts around the world.
One of the biggest problems with small arms is the ‘leakage’ of weapons to a variety of actors from dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, to insurgent groups and criminal gangs. Many small arms are sold to security forces and used to repress their own populations. Small arms are easy to store and don’t quickly become obsolete, so they are often recycled from conflict to conflict.
Some small arms manufacturers actively pursue illegal markets, and in other cases arms sold to ‘legitimate’ customers are redirected to particularly unsavoury markets. Governments are often eager to increase export sales, and drop ethical considerations. The UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation has put the following countries on its export priority list: Algeria, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, India, Iraq, Japan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the USA. (Source) Included in these countries are many authoritarian dicatorships, unstable conflict-riven countries, and western countries with a history of intervention in foreign lands. Note that the list was created before we fell out with the authoritarian Quadhafy regime in Libya. The UK government was willing to supply arms to an unstable dictatorship that only a few month later we are at war with.
Small arms are often a high cause of death in conflicts, much greater than public perception. News reports tend to focus on large scale violence and bombings, not the slow dribble of violence that goes on day after day killing large numbers of people unspectacularly and often out of sight. Small arms including machine guns are a significant source of accidental deaths.
The Federation of American Scientists has prepared a good article on the global threat of small arms.