The difficulties of civilian arms export controls

This GRIP Analysis addresses the current difficulties that exist to distinguish military and civilian firearms, and the implications for controlling civilian firearms international transfers. In the first part, we discuss the criteria generally used to categorize these two types of weapons, and the limits of each of these criteria. We then analyze national systems of transfer controls set up by the four leading European exporters of small arms and light weapons (namely, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Italy) and by Croatia (future member state of the European Union). Finally, we present some recent cases of misuse or illegal use of civilian firearms originating in the difficulties to differentiate between military and civilian firearms.