This module is a resource for lecturers


As the first Module in the UNODC Teaching Module Series on Firearms, this Module has the objective of providing an introduction to the world of firearms, the various issues relating to them, and the consequences and impact of their illicit manufacturing, trafficking and criminal use on peace, security, and development.

Over 200,000 deaths per annum involve firearms outside conflict regions, and the growing global circulation of firearms is estimated at over one billion (Holtom and Pavesi, 2018). The vast majority of these are in civilian hands, and the increasing 'weaponization' of societies and the illegal trade and trafficking in firearms directly threatens peace and security, becoming a pressing issue for the world. With this in mind, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 16 (United Nations, 2019: 1), aim to 'Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels'.

Many countries and regions face multiple and increasingly interconnected security challenges, where firearms feature prominently as catalysts, or enablers, of armed violence: from armed conflicts to violent crime and gang criminality to more sophisticated organized crime and terrorism. The strategic role and impact of firearms used in organized crime and terrorism is of concern, particularly where illicit firearm availability exponentially increases the destructive power and coercive influence of these groups over local communities with consequent threat to peace and security.

Countering the illicit flows of these arms, preventing illicit access and use, and disrupting the criminal networks and organizations engaged in their illicit trade and trafficking are therefore major priorities in the security agenda of the international community. Understanding the complex interrelationships and multifaceted, global nature of these issues is crucial in addressing their root causes if viable solutions are to be identified and effectively implemented.

Learning outcomes

This Module will provide lecturers with the necessary guidance and resources to teach their students the following:

  • An overview of the global firearms context, including basic concepts and definitions, and some initial numbers and sources of firearms.
  • The impact of firearms in conflict areas.
  • The personal and social consequences of illicit manufacturing, acquisition, trafficking and use of firearms by criminals in non-conflict situations.
  • An overview of international, regional and state approaches to tackling firearms proliferation.
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