Was versteht man unter Klein– und Leichtwaffen?

The United Nations definition for SALW differs between small and light weapons. So-called small weapons are revolvers, self-loading pistols, carbines and rifles, assault rifles, machine pistols and light machine guns (all can be operated by one person). So-called light weapons are heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, portable tank and air defence missiles, recoilless rifles, portable rocket launchers and mortars up to a calibre of 100mm. They can be carried by two people or a team, transported in a small vehicle or a pack animal and operated by a team. With the exception of artillery shells, that are a weapon and ammunition in one, all small arms need ammunition.

Small arms are often used in non-state conflicts and are the weapons preferred by criminals and politically motivated groups. According to estimates, there are between 600 and 800 million small arms in the world. Due to mass production and lacking legislation in many countries, many military weapons end up in the hands of civilians.

Civilian small arms are produced for hunting, self-defence and as a sporting weapon. Their use is generally subject to national laws the adherence to which, however, is rather poor.

In 2001, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described small arms as the real 'weapons of mass destruction of our time' due to their proliferation and the carnage they cause. This is why the International Community has decided on a number of agreements, UN Protocols, regional conventions and other measures to curb the use of and trade in SALW, to regulate their marking and to help countries to trace back weapons that have been used illegally.

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