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-research based 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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