The terror of the Kalashnikov

The terror of the Kalashnikov

While the world is busy with the rise of radical groups that spread terror, we may be ignoring what are in the hands of the terrorists, the weapons. Weapons of mass destruction are no longer nuclear arsenals — but the Avtomat Kalashnikova 47, the famous AK-47.

Having originated in what was then the Soviet Union, the AK-47 is one of the world’s most used and profilic automatic assault rifles. This iconic weapon has been used in more than 100 countries.

With a reputation as tough, reliable and easy to maintan, the AK-47 has been modernized and copied to make various types of firearms. A Geneva-based think-tank, the Small Arms Survey, noted that at least 70 million AK rifles have been produced to date.

The popularity of the AK-47 and the result of the Soviet-Afghan war led to the infamously labeled Kalashnikov culture in Pakistan where belligerent groups tend to resolve political disputes with assault rifles.

Sadly, the proliferation of the AK-47 is just the tip of the iceberg. According to the London-based NGO, Amnesty International, there are now 875 million firearms in the world and 12 billion bullets, enough to kill everyone in the world twice.

Despite the abundance of weapons production, there is no universally agreed and clear regulation to control the production and distribution of them, specifically regulations on illicit arms trade.

The definition of illicit arms trafficking or gunrunning itself is quite problematic. The UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) defined it as trade that is contrary to the laws of states and/or international law.

Meanwhile, there is no clear global agreement regarding the arms trade. Even the newest international Arms Trade Treaty only has 53 signatures and has been ratified in 80 countries, with the rest remaining undecided, including Indonesia. The gap between state law and international law creates a grey area of arms trade: the trade can be legal by state regulation, but may defy international law.

While it is challenging to have an international agreement, every country should have strict regulations on arms control. This would help to minimize the illicit trade as well as the misuse of weapons. Strict regulation of deadly weapons would also limit terrorists’ access to them.

From the Sarinah tragedy of Jan. 14 alone, several firearms were traced to a Tangerang prison, acquired from a former prisoner.

While revising the law on counterterrorism, Indonesia cannot ignore the convoluted distribution of illegal weapons. As a country that has not even agreed on ATT, Indonesia must ensure that local rules can regulate the trade and distribution of weapons.

The government should include a regulation on weapons within the counterterrorism framework. Integrated management of terrorism and weapons could be an example for other countries looking at military intervention to deal with extremists.

Indonesia must also remember to take care of the state-owned weapons producer, PT Pindad, which is growing steadily. Pindad will launch a new assault rifle this March 2016 named SSX Pindad.

This weapon’s ability reportedly exceeds that of the legendary AK-47. Indonesia must be able to control the use and distribution of this weapon, to avoid new terrorist acts using the new firearm.

It is our choice, to be controlled by the terror of the weapon or to control both the spread of weapons and terrorism.

 Ayu Mellisa. The writer is a researcher at the Center for the Study of Religion and Democracy (PUSAD), Paramadina Foundation, Jakarta.
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