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Guns in Wallis and Futuna

In the remote French Pacific territory of Wallis and Futuna, few firearm licensing and possession figures have been published. The rate of violent crime appears to be low, and gun injury is either very rare or unreported. Firearm-related media coverage is sparse, and diplomatic contributions, including reports to the United Nations small arms Programme of Action (UNPoA),1 submitted by France on behalf of its overseas territories, do not mention Wallis and Futuna.

In common with many of its Polynesian neighbours, this island territory seems to suffer very little from the global impact of small arms proliferation.

Civilian Possession

The numbers of licensed gun owners and privately held firearms in Wallis and Futuna are currently unreported.

Government Guns

Wallis and Futuna is one of eight among 20 Pacific island jurisdictions to routinely arm its law enforcement personnel. In 2002, the local force of 20 gendarmes was said to be armed with about 26 firearms. The French military garrison had 46 regular personnel, and was calculated to maintain 104 firearms.2 3 By 2005, the local gendarmerie was reported to number 30.4

Gun Death, Injury and Crime

Firearm-related public health and justice data for Wallis and Futuna, including any gun homicide, suicide, unintentional shootings and armed crime, do not seem to be internationally published. In 2005, a tribal feud produced accounts of armed men blockading roads and the airport runway, but no shootings were reported.4

Gun Control Law

Closely based on mainland French legislation, the territorial gun control law of Wallis and Futuna is ranked as restrictive, rather than permissive.5 Dating back to World War II, French metropolitan firearm-related statutes include the Law Decree of 18 April 1939 and subsequent amendments.6

Gun Owner Licensing

Although the territory of Wallis and Futuna does not define in law a ‘genuine reason’ for small arms possession, French legislation assumes hunting, sport shooting and collecting to be legitimate reasons for owning a firearm.7 Uncommonly for the Pacific, and alone with its sister French Pacific Territories and Papua New Guinea, Wallis and Futuna explicitly recognises self defence as an acceptable reason for firearm ownership.8 Only self defence requires proof of need, and the range of small arms that may be legally acquired for defensive purposes is limited.7

Permitted Firearms

Privately owned small arms are permitted according to the category of user, whether private citizen, accredited hunter, or accredited sport shooter. French law divides firearms into eight categories based on their design and purpose (see below). Restrictions on possession and use vary accordingly. Over time, certain firearms, such as semi-automatic rifles, have been re-categorised to bring them under more restrictive regulation.9

Category 1 firearms (‘materials of war’) are prohibited by law. These include automatic pistols, any handgun designed to fire ammunition of a calibre designated as ‘military,’ and long guns designed or destined for war purposes, among others. While the overarching French law prohibits possession of Category 4 arms (defensive weapons, including non-military-calibre pistols and revolvers) unless authorised by the High Commissioner,10 in practice the private ownership of handguns is prohibited in Wallis and Futuna.11

In order to possess non-military-style long guns, adults without a criminal record who can produce a justification for hunting or a territorial French Shooting card, and who have obtained the appropriate firearm licence, may own a maximum of two smooth-bored firearms suitable for hunting, one Category 5 rifle (a carbine), and one Category 7 rifle.10

Contrary to the practice in France, where some categories of small arms are unrestricted, it is necessary in Wallis and Futuna to obtain a police permit for every firearm, and for all ammunition purchased.12

Record Keeping

The ownership of a private firearm may only be legally transferred by way of the official gun registry. Licensed firearm dealers must record the buyer, seller, weapon description and serial number, then transmit information on each transfer to the gendarmerie each month, updating the centralised firearm register.13

Marking and Tracing

There are no specific marking requirements in the firearm legislation of Wallis and Futuna.14

Penalties

Although any penalties for firearm-related offences which might apply specifically to Wallis and Futuna are not known, the territory’s ‘parent’ jurisdiction of New Caledonia specifies up to 10 days in prison and/or a maximum fine of EUR 320 for unlawful possession, trading, manufacture, import or export of a firearm.15 By contrast, similar offences committed in neighbouring Australia can incur penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment.16

Definitions

Common terms such as ‘arm,’ ‘firearm’ and ‘ammunition’ are not defined in gun laws applying to Wallis and Futuna.17

Production and Trade

Manufacture

Although the French Pacific Territories all prohibit firearm and ammunition manufacture, it can be within the law to reload limited types of cartridge for private use.18

Trade Control

Imports of Category 1, 2, and 3 arms and ammunition (‘materials of war’) are prohibited, except for defence and police purposes. Imports of Category 4, 5, 7, and 8 arms (defensive, hunting, sport shooting, amusement, and collector’s pieces) are subject to prior authorisation by the High Commissioner. Imports of Category 6 arms (‘Armes Blanches,’ or bladed weapons), are unrestricted.19

Smuggling and Trafficking

There are no known reports of arms smuggling and trafficking in Wallis and Futuna.

International Agreements

As an overseas territory of France, Wallis and Futuna has no controlling role in justice, education, security and defence, all of which are directly provided and administered by the French Government. Membership and participation in international diplomatic affairs and organisations are the responsibilities of France on behalf of its territories.20 Accordingly, Wallis and Futuna has not identified a national point of contact or a national coordination body for small arms, nor has it reported independently on implementation of the United Nations small arms Programme of Action (UNPoA).21 1

Wallis and Futuna maintains observer status at the Pacific Islands Forum, but is not a party to its Honiara Initiative,22 23 the resulting Nadi Framework for small arms control in the Pacific,24 nor the Draft Model Weapons Control Bill for the Pacific,25 a template designed to encourage progressive harmonisation of gun control laws across the region as member states update their national legislation.26 27

Wallis and Futuna does exchange firearm trafficking intelligence with its regional neighbours through the Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO).28

Short References

1.

UNGA.2001.‘Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects.’ United Nations General Assembly.New York:UN General Assembly,20 July. (Q18)Full Citation

2.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘State Security Forces in the Pacific, 2002.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q293)Full Citation

3.

Karp, Aaron.2003.‘Fewer Blanks: Global Firearm Stockpiles.’ Small Arms Survey 2003: Development Denied.Oxford:Oxford University Press,1 July. (Q294)Full Citation

4.

Nick Squires. 2005. ‘Gendarmes Prepare to Fly In as Tribal Feud Erupts in Tiny Colony.’ Telegraph (UK). 24 September. (N38) Full Citation

5.

Newton, George D and Franklin E Zimring.1969.‘Firearm Licensing: Permissive v Restrictive.’ Firearms & Violence in American Life: A staff report submitted to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence.Washington, DC:US Government Printing Office,1 January. (Q22)Full Citation

6.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Pacific Small Arms Legislation: Firearm laws in the Pacific.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q149)Full Citation

7.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Genuine Reason: A Snapshot of Pacific Definitions – French Territories.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q282)Full Citation

8.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Pacific Small Arms Legislation: Domestic and regional issues.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q281)Full Citation

9.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Pacific Small Arms Legislation: Domestic and regional issues.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q283)Full Citation

10.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Civilian Firearm Ownership and Prohibitions in the Pacific.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q284)Full Citation

11.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Pacific Small Arms Legislation: Domestic and regional issues.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q285)Full Citation

12.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Pacific Small Arms Legislation: Domestic and regional issues.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q286)Full Citation

13.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Pacific Small Arms Legislation: Domestic and regional issues.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q287)Full Citation

14.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Pacific Small Arms Legislation: Firearm marking requirements in Pacific states.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q160)Full Citation

15.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Selected Penalties for Firearm Offences in the Pacific.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q362)Full Citation

16.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Pacific Small Arms Legislation: Selected penalties for firearm offences in the Pacific.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q164)Full Citation

17.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Pacific Small Arms Legislation: What Is a Small Arm?.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q363)Full Citation

18.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Pacific Small Arms Legislation: Domestic and regional issues.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q288)Full Citation

19.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Import and Export Laws in Pacific States.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q289)Full Citation

20.

UN.2013.‘Member States of the United Nations.’ UN.org Web Site.New York:United Nations General Assembly,7 April. (Q290)Full Citation

21.

Cattaneo, Silvia and Sarah Parker.2008.‘States That Have Never Reported.’ Implementing the United Nations Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons: Analysis of the National Reports submitted by States from 2002 to 2008.Geneva:United Nations Development Programme,1 November. (Q21)Full Citation

22.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Pacific Small Arms Legislation: Domestic and regional issues.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q574)Full Citation

23.

SPCPC.1998.‘The Honiara Initiative Resolutions.’ Second SPCPC Sub-Committee Meeting on Common Approach to Weapon Control.Honiara:South Pacific Chiefs of Police Conference,19 October. (Q575)Full Citation

24.

SPCPC/OCO.2000.‘Towards a Common Approach to Weapons Control: The 'Nadi Framework'.’ South Pacific Chiefs of Police Conference (SPCPC) and Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO).Nadi, Fiji:Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat,10 March. (Q576)Full Citation

25.

Baker, Jean.2000.‘Weapons Control Bill: Explanatory Notes.’ Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.Suva, Fiji:Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat,10 March. (Q577)Full Citation

26.

Alpers, Philip.2005.‘Pacific Model Legislation.’ Gun-running in Papua New Guinea: From arrows to assault weapons in the Southern Highlands.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,1 July. (Q167)Full Citation

27.

IANSA.2006.‘National Regulation of Small Arms.’ IANSA Position Paper for the January, 2006 Preparatory Conference (PrepCom) for the July, 2006 UN small arms Review Conference (RevCon).New York:International Action Network on Small Arms,1 January. (Q578)Full Citation

28.

IANSA.2006.‘Reviewing Action on Small Arms 2006: Assessing the first five years of the UN Programme of Action.’ Biting the Bullet 'Red Book' 2006.New York:International Action Network on Small Arms and the Biting the Bullet project,26 June. (Q168)Full Citation