Uses, users, and instruments
: relevance and replicability of small arms research

  • Nicolas Florquin

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This PhD thesis uses aspects of a criminology framework to examine the extent to which research
on small arms and light weapons (SALW) undertaken to support international policy is relevant and
replicable beyond its immediate field of practice. Using a sample of six primarily field-researchbased publications, I examine whether this research generated a greater understanding of the most problematic uses and users of SALW, and the role of these weapons as instruments of violence.

With respect to uses, the application of public health and mixed social science methods has helped
to reduce knowledge gaps on the effects of SALW in developing and post-conflict societies.
Estimates of the costs of violence in developing countries demonstrated the instrumentality of
SALW—i.e. the more serious societal impacts of firearm violence than those of violence involving
other instruments. SALW research on users contributed to expanding the agenda from an initial
focus on international trafficking to supply insurgent groups to a more comprehensive examination
of the patterns of SALW procurement, management, control, and use among a broad range of
actors able to contest the state’s monopoly of coercive force. My work on the instruments of
violence contributed to an increasingly precise understanding of the most problematic types of
SALW held by criminal, terrorist, and non-state armed groups in Africa and Europe. Finally,
replicating field-based black-market price-monitoring techniques in conflict areas showed that
ammunition prices and war-related fatalities can be strongly correlated, and provides an important
lead for further examining the accessibility thesis—i.e. the link between SALW availability and levels
of violence.

The present thesis provides several suggestions for moving the field of practice forward. Firstly,
there is a need to consolidate the lessons learned from SALW researchers’ extensive use of social
science methods—including surveying—in post-conflict situations, and to analyse their implications
for the measurement of SALW availability and the incidence of violence more broadly. Secondly,
SALW researchers need to engage in scientifically robust evaluations of the impact of the most
novel interventions, which would represent significant contributions to both SALW policy and
academic research into gun violence. Finally, various streams of SALW research have highlighted
the importance of ammunition supply in sustaining conflict and violence, a subject so far largely
overlooked by those researching gun violence in developed countries. More expansive inquiry into
ammunition flows and their relationship to violence has the potential to represent a major
contribution to academic research into gun violence.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorPeter Squires (Supervisor)

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