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Armed violence prevention, gun control laws and the small arms trade:

Guns in Melanesia

Of all the island groups in the South West Pacific, Melanesia has been, and still is the most afflicted by armed violence. Across Oceania in recent years, ongoing and organised gun violence and armed conflict have flared, then subsided only in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and to a lesser extent Vanuatu. In Papua New Guinea, small arms are used on an almost daily basis to threaten, to maim and to kill. Although the Pacific has so far escaped the 'AK-47 plague' which so damages other regions, the island nations of Melanesia demonstrate the disproportionate social and economic disruption made possible by even a small number of small arms, misused in small communities.1 2 3

Estimates of civilian-held firearms in Melanesia range from a high of 58.59 guns per 100 people in New Caledonia,4 to 2.27 in Vanuatu,5 and a low of 0.35 per 100 (one gun per 600 people) in the Solomon Islands.6 Papua New Guinea, despite a low overall rate of possession, has a high number of civilian-held firearms with estimates nearing 71,000.7 New Caledonia has again the highest number of civilian-held firearms in the region with an estimated 150,000 firearms.4 8  Efforts to reduce both private and state-owned firearm stockpiles through amnesty, collection and destruction programmes in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands have shown a range of results, from failure to success.9 10 11 12

Firearm licences have been suspended in the Solomon Islands since the end of hostilities in 1999,13 14 and in Fiji since 2000,13 while only small-calibre rifles and shotguns are permitted in Vanuatu.15 Registered handguns are permitted for self defence only in New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea.16 17 18

Arms manufacture is explicitly prohibited in Papua New Guinea,19 Solomon Islands,20 and Vanuatu21 and effectively prevented in Fiji, where manufacturing licences are required, but never issued.22 It is allowed under licence in New Caledonia.23 Crude, illegal single-shot home-made guns are crafted in quantity in Papua New Guinea, as they have been in Fiji and the Solomon Islands.24 25 26

In the legal trade, Melanesia is not a major market for small arms transfers. Of all declared small arms and ammunition imports destined for the island nations of Oceania, New Caledonia receives 86 percent.27 28 Unsubstantiated rumours of arms smuggling abound, particularly along the Indonesia/West Papua border. Yet there is scant evidence of any more than occasional, opportunistic cross-border movements of one or two firearms at a time.29 30 31

UN members Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands have each been average participants in the United Nations small arms Programme of Action (UNPoA), while Vanuatu has been inactive.32 33 34 35 Vanuatu is the only country of the region to have signed, but not yet ratified, the Arms Trade Treaty.36

For more detailed figures and gun control laws in each Melanesian country, search Find Gun Policy Facts in the left hand column.

Short References

1.

Alpers, Philip.2005.‘The Human Cost of Armed Violence: Development and Aid.’ 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, Geneva,1 July. (Q651)Full Citation

2.

Alpers, Philip.2005.‘Access to Basic Services: Health.’ 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, Geneva,1 July. (Q652)Full Citation

3.

Mary-Louise O'Callaghan. 2001. ‘Hell in the Pacific.’ Weekend Australian. 1 December. (N54) Full Citation

4.

Daryl Morini. 2013. ‘Comment Désarmer La Brousse ?.’ Centre pour le Destin Commun. 26 August. (N376) Full Citation

5.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Civilian Firearm Ownership in Pacific Nations, 2002.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,31 March. (Q604)Full Citation

6.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Stockpiles and Trafficking in the Pacific.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,31 March. (Q143)Full Citation

7.

Karp, Aaron.2007.‘Completing the Count: Civilian firearms - Annexe online.’ Small Arms Survey 2007: Guns and the City.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press,27 August. (Q5)Full Citation

8.

Radio New Zealand International (Shortwave). 2014. ‘New Caledonia Opposed to Tighter Gun Laws.’ 3 April. (N375) Full Citation

9.

Fiji.2004.‘Collection and Disposal.’ National Report of Fiji on its Implementation of the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (UNPoA).New York, NY:Permanent Mission of Fiji to the United Nations,1 July. (Q455)Full Citation

10.

Alpers, Philip (in: Aaron Karp, ed.).2009.‘Papua New Guinea: Small numbers, big fuss, real results.’ The Politics of Destroying Surplus Small Arms: Inconspicuous Disarmament.London:Routledge / Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,1 August. (Q703)Full Citation

11.

Oseah Philemon. 2006. ‘Army to Destroy 3400 Weapons.’ Post-Courier (Port Moresby). 23 June. (N70) Full Citation

12.

Nelson, Carol and Robert Muggah.2004.‘Solomon Islands: Evaluating the Weapons Free Village Campaign.’ Small Arms Survey Working Paper.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,1 November. (Q501)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, Geneva,31 March. (Q502)Full Citation

14.

Parker, Sarah.2011.‘Balancing Act: Regulation of Civilian Firearm Possession.’ Small Arms Survey 2011: States of Security.Cambridge:Cambridge University Press,6 July. (Q5359)Full Citation

15.

Vanuatu.1988.‘Notice of Ports and Places of Import.’ Firearms (Statutory Orders) 1988 [Cap 198].Port Vila:Parliament of Vanuatu,27 June. (Q873)Full Citation

16.

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, Geneva,31 March. (Q281)Full Citation

17.

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, Geneva,31 March. (Q142)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, Geneva,31 March. (Q311)Full Citation

19.

Papua New Guinea.1978.‘Manufacture of Firearms.’ Firearms Act (1978).Port Moresby:National Parliament,1 January. (Q688)Full Citation

20.

Solomon Islands.1996.‘Restrictions on the Manufacture of Firearms and Ammunition.’ Firearms and Ammunition Act (1967).Honiara:National Parliament,1 January. (Q549)Full Citation

21.

Vanuatu.1988.‘Manufacture and Dealer Licensing.’ Firearms Act 1988 [Cap 198].Port Vila:Parliament of Vanuatu,28 March. (Q628)Full Citation

22.

Fiji.2003.‘Prohibition on the Manufacture of Arms and Ammunition.’ Arms and Ammunition Act (2003).Suva:Parliament of Fiji Islands,1 January. (Q446)Full Citation

23.

France.2009.‘Article 5-1 - Décret n° 2009-451 du 21 avril 2009 fixant le régime des matériels de guerre, armes et munitions en Nouvelle-Calédonie.’ Decree No 2009-451 of April 21, 2009 on Weapons of War, Firearms and Ammunition in New Caledonia.Paris:Prime Minister of the French Republic,21 April. (Q8054)Full Citation

24.

United Nations.1999.‘Analysis of Country Responses.’ United Nations International Study on Firearm Regulation.Vienna:UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division,30 August. (Q1)Full Citation

25.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Stockpiles and Trafficking in the Pacific.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,31 March. (Q690)Full Citation

26.

Solomon Islands.2001.‘Complete Disarmament.’ National Report of the Solomon Islands on its Implementation of the United Nations Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons In All Its Aspects (UNPoA).New York, NY:Permanent Mission of the Solomon Islands to the United Nations,10 July. (Q572)Full Citation

27.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘US Small Arms and Ammunition Export License Approvals, Pacific, 1998-2000.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,31 March. (Q303)Full Citation

28.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Declared Small Arms and Ammunition Imports, Pacific Countries, 2000.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,31 March. (Q631)Full Citation

29.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Papua New Guinea: Importation routes: Papua New Guinea / West Papua.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,31 March. (Q695)Full Citation

30.

Alpers, Philip.2005.‘Cross-border Smuggling: Myth or Reality? - West Papua.’ 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, Geneva,1 July. (Q696)Full Citation

31.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Papua New Guinea: Importation routes.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,31 March. (Q697)Full Citation

32.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘Findings - Table 3: Reporting States by Rank and Score.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,1 August. (Q8752)Full Citation

33.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘What do the PoAIM Scores Represent? How Should the PoAIM Scores Be Interpreted?.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,1 August. (Q8753)Full Citation

34.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘Point Allocation System.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,1 August. (Q8754)Full Citation

35.

Parker, Sarah and Katherine Green.2012.‘Introduction.’ The Programme of Action Implementation Monitor (Phase 1): Assessing Reported Progress.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva,1 August. (Q8755)Full Citation

36.

UNODA.2013.‘Towards Entry Into Force.’ Arms Trade Treaty.New York, NY:United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs,2 April. (Q7226)Full Citation