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Armed Violence and Guns in Oceania


"I'm the most powerful man in the country. I hold the key to the armoury."

-- A Pacific Island delegate, speaking at a small arms seminar in Tokyo.1


The 20 nations of Oceania are no strangers to small arms. During World War II, island states in the south-west Pacific were home to thousands of armed troops, and suffered many bloody conflicts. More recently, small arms have reappeared as vectors of human rights abuse, death and injury.

Unlike neighbours in South-East and South Asia, the region is not afflicted with large-scale gun trafficking. Yet the Pacific experience demonstrates how deeply even a small number of small arms can damage small communities. In recent years the most destructive firearms used in crime and conflict in Pacific island nations were provided by soldiers and police.2 3 4 5

Lawfully held civilian stockpiles of small arms in the Pacific include 3.1 million firearms, or one privately held gun for every ten people. This surpasses the global ratio of privately held firearms to population by more than 50 per cent. At least 26 nations legally export arms to the Pacific, with most weapon imports arriving from the United States. Small arms from China, Russia, and Eastern Europe are far less common than in other regions.6

For more information on armed violence and gun control laws in each country and territory of Oceania, please use the search tools in the left hand column.

Short References

1.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Stockpiles and Trafficking in the Pacific: Armoury Management.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q315)Full Citation

2.

New Zealand.2007.‘Statement on Stockpile Management.’ National Report of New Zealand 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:Permanent Mission of New Zealand to the United Nations,15 July. (Q185)Full Citation

3.

Alpers, Philip, Robert Muggah and Conor Twyford.2004.‘Trouble in Paradise: Gun smuggling, leakage, and crime.’ Small Arms Survey 2004: Rights at Risk.Oxford:Oxford University Press,1 July. (Q184)Full Citation

4.

Capie, David.2003.‘Principal Findings.’ Under the Gun: The small arms challenge in the Pacific.Wellington:Victoria University Press,1 January. (Q590)Full Citation

5.

Alpers, Philip.2005.‘Guns and the Pacific.’ 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. (Q182)Full Citation

6.

Alpers, Philip and Conor Twyford.2003.‘Summary: Stockpiles and Trafficking.’ Small Arms in the Pacific.Geneva:Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,31 March. (Q183)Full Citation