Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Review: Homemade and Deadly (Small Arms Survey)

Craft Production of Small Arms in Nigeria by Authors Mathias Nowak and André Gsell, June of 2018, 19 pages.

This remarkable briefing paper provides a fascinating look into the underground production of personal firearms in Nigeria.  It shows a basic limitation of legal gun control.  Nigeria has had extensive, strict, legal limitations on the ownership and manufacture of firearms since 1959. To illustrate the draconian nature of these legal controls, repairing of firearms, without a government license to do so, has a legal penalty of a minimum of 10 years in prison.

The inspector general of police, with the consent of the governor of a state, can issue permits to virtually anyone they wish to. This is a "may issue" system, with all power centralized in the State governors. In practice, it appears no licenses to manufacture are given. But licenses to carry possess and carry firearms can be had.  In essence, this a pure rule of man, not rule of law. From smallarmssurvey.org:
This Briefing Paper provides new research findings based on extensive fieldwork in four Nigerian states (Adamawa, Anambra, Benue, and Plateau). It reviews demand and supply factors that shape the craft market in Nigeria, finding that demand is driven by insecurity and conflict, but also by cultural and societal factors. Supply is mostly demand driven. The quality of the products and production methods varies greatly across the surveyed states. Craft production poses a significant challenge for the Nigerian state and will require a mix of holistic measures to regulate or deter it, ranging from improving security (and security perceptions) and the relationship between security providers and communities, to licensing, measures aimed at providing alternative livelihoods for craft producers, and a more comprehensive application of the relevant legal framework.
The briefing paper presents the results of 82 in depth interviews in four Nigerian states, as well as the capital territory.  Included in these interviews are 23 small shop, or, as the briefing paper refers to them craft firearms producers.

Because of the severe legal limitations on the purchase and ownership of firearms in Nigeria, nearly three-fourths of weapons seized in Nigeria (1,150 of 1,559) firearms from 2014-2017 were homemade (craft) guns. Factory made guns are available in the underground economy, but are much more expensive than craft guns.

Prices vary from $41 for a craft single barrel shotgun to $175 for a craft copy of the AK47.

Factory products on the black market vary from $118 for a single barrel shotgun to $1,330 for an AK47.

Black market factory ammunition is readily available in 12 gauge, 9mm and 7.62mm (presumably 7.62X39) at about a U.S. dollar per round. No underground production of ammunition was noted.

There are discrepancies in the briefing that are ignored. A previous survey found that 17 percent of rural weapon owners, and 10 percent of urban weapon owners, owned craft produced firearms. Yet 74% of confiscated firearms were craft produced. No explanation is given. It seems unlikely that 80% of rural weapons owners have legal, factory produced firearms. From smallarmssurvey.org:

About one-fifth (17 per cent) of civilian, rural weapons holders countrywide possess craft weapons and one-tenth in urban areas, according to preliminary findings from the National Small Arms and Light Weapons Survey (NSALWS).

Machine tools and hand tools are supplanting craft/blacksmith type of production, which consists of centuries old blacksmithing techniques.

Technical training in machining and use of educational facilities for demanding metal work show the infusion of more advanced technical knowledge into the craft firearms market.

While a primary assumption of Homemade and Deadly is that a reduction in firearms is always better, the research done provides useful information. When functional small arms from single shots to sub-machine guns are produced in crude blacksmith shops, the concept of effective firearms controls has serious limitation.

The authors ignore the possibility that easier legal ownership of firearms could have positive effects.

Nigeria is rated as having one of the lowest rates of firearm ownership, of about 1.5 per 100 people. The United States has a private stock of over 418 million firearms, or a rate of firearms ownership of above 125 per 100 people. To reach the Nigerian level of firearms ownership, the number of firearms in the U.S. would have to be reduced more than 98%.  Yet, the murder rate in Nigeria is about three times that in the United States.

The Nigerian experience shows that even an extremely low rate of firearms ownership is more than enough to supply violent criminals to produce a murder rate three times as much as in the United States. If a country has a peaceful culture, they do not need gun control. If they have a violent culture, gun control does not produce a positive effect. A similar situation is seen in Brazil.

In the United States, production of craft firearms would be far simpler than in Nigeria, due to the easy availability of electricity, machine tools, and the emerging technology of cheap CNC machines and 3D printers. There are likely tens of billions of rounds of ammunition, unregistered, in U.S. homes.

I recommend Homemade and Deadly for anyone who is interested in the black market production of firearms and the technological limitations of gun control laws.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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