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Small arms, big money

May 27, 2013

The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper has reported that German small arms sales hit an all-time high in 2012, at more than double the previous year's sales. Weapons deals are under scrutiny in the German press.

M5 machine pistols, made by German producer Heckler & Koch, whon in Freiburg on 15.03.2010 at a police shooting range. (Photo via Patrick Seeger dpa/lsw)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

German weapons manufacturers generated more revenue in 2012 through small arms sales than in any previous recorded year, according to a report in the Monday edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The Süddeutsche reported that approved exports from 2012 hit 76.15 million euros ($98.5 million) in 2012, compared to 37.9 million euros in 2011. The second-highest figure on record, with small arms only itemized in German government export reports since the late 1990s, was from 2009 - at 70.4 million euros.

The newspaper said it had obtained the figures via the opposition German Left party, which had filed a formal parliamentary request to the Federal Economy Ministry, requesting the 2012 figures.

The German government defines small arms as weapons that can be carried and operated by one person. Handguns, machine pistols, light machine guns, and small explosives like hand grenades or land mines fall under into the category. Portable rocket launchers and larger machine guns are instead classified as light arms, as they usually need two or more people to operate them.

German military exports by private companies must be approved by a special security council made up of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and most top government ministers, including the defense, foreign, finance and development ministers.

Dealing in death

Exporting small weapons is a contentious issue as they are used to kill far more people than heavy weapons and major military equipment around the world. Amnesty International estimates that 1,000 people die each day from gunshot wounds inflicted by small arms. Owing to their size, they are also the hardest weapons to keep track of, and circulate with comparative ease in conflict zones.

"Small arms are the 21st century's weapons of mass destruction," Left party parliamentarian Jan van Aken told the Süddeutsche, saying that this meant the government-approved exports should "not be doubled, but rather outlawed."

German arms exports have come under considerable scrutiny in recent months, most notably in the major, left-of-center Süddeutsche and Spiegel publications. In recent months, the German government has approved the sales of tanks or other armored vehicles to countries including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, with small arms sales to the United Arab Emirates also approved. The Süddeutsche also reported in February that weapons exports to the Gulf region almost trebled in 2012 compared to the previous year.

Weekly magazine Spiegel, meanwhile, in December published an edition featuring a doctored image of Merkel in military uniform on the cover with the headline "German weapons for the world."

msh/ccp (AFP, dpa)

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