HOMEMADE AND DEALY: 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 also provides an instructive illustration of the basic limitations of gun control laws.
Nigeria has had extensive, strict, legal limitations on the ownership and manufacture of firearms since 1959. To illustrate the draconian nature of these legal restrictions, repairing of firearms without a government license to do so carries 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. It’s a classic “may issue” system, with all power centralized in the state governors. In practice, it appears no licenses to manufacture are given. But licenses to possess and carry firearms can be had.
In essence, this a pure rule of man, not a rule of law.
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 there (1,150 of 1,559) 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 single barrel craft shotgun to $175 for a craft copy of an AK-47.
Factory products on the black market vary from $118 for a single barrel shotgun to $1,330 for an AK-47.
Black market factory ammunition is readily available in 12 gauge, 9mm and 7.62mm at about a U.S. dollar per round cost. No underground production of ammunition was noted in the report.
There are discrepancies in the briefing that are ignored.
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).
Yet 74% of confiscated firearms were craft made. No explanation is given. It seems unlikely that 80% of rural weapons owners have legal, factory produced firearms.
Machine tools and hand tools are increasingly supplanting craft/blacksmith 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 civilian-owned 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, it’s obvious that the concept of effective firearms controls has serious limitations.
The authors, however, ignore the possibility that easier legal civilian ownership of firearms could have positive effects.
Nigeria is rated as having one of the lowest rates of firearm ownership at about 1.5 per 100 people. The United States has a private stock of over 400 million firearms, or an ownership rate of about 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 by more than 98%. Note that 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 and to result in a murder rate three times as high as ours. If a country has a peaceful culture, they don’t need gun control. If they have a violent culture, gun control will do little if anything to reduce the crime rate. A similar situation is seen in Brazil.
In the United States, production of craft firearms would be a far simpler matter than it is in Nigeria, due to the easy availability of electricity, power tools, and the emerging technology of cheap CNC machines and 3D printers. This situation will only become harder to control in the future.
Oh, and there are likely tens of billions of rounds of ammunition owned by millions of gun owners in U.S., too.
I recommend Homemade and Deadly for anyone who is interested in the black market production of firearms and the inherent technological limitations of gun control laws.
©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.