Methodology for recordkeeping

May 11 2011, 2:08 PM by Ray Acheson

One of the key issues regarding small arms record keeping is the type
of system that will be put in place to sufficiently record the
relevant data on SALWs so that traces are not only possible, but
accurate. As noted by Ambassador McLay in his summary of the
discussions on record keeping, the ITI indicates that the choice of
method for record keeping is a national prerogative. Therefore, it is
necessary to bear in mind that level of technical expertise, financial
resources, national legislation, and, in some cases, historical
custom, will have great impact on the method of record keeping adopted
and implemented by member states. Furthermore, as efficient and
effective record keeping is the linchpin of tracking and monitoring
the illicit trade in SALWs to ultimately eradicate such trade,
methodologies adopted by governments are of great significance.
Likewise, successful completion of trace requests from member states
will only be as successful as record keeping methods are effective.

by Katherine Prizeman, Global Action to Prevent War

To illustrate the diversity of methods, it is important to note the US
experience. The US delegate described in detail the highly
decentralized system that exists in the US federal system based on the
Gun Control Act of 1968. The expert explained that records are kept on
two levels—a small registry for ‘unusual weapons’ kept as a central
registry, along with a series of records by different licensees for
all other weapons. As such, the federal government does not hold a
central registry of firearms, but instead relies on the record keeping
of a chain of licensees—from manufacturer, wholesaler/distributor,
dealer, to consumer. Therefore, this methodology relies on private
industry to retain detailed and accurate records as each licensee
represents a link in the chain of information necessary to fulfill
tracing requests. The delegate explained that despite this highly
decentralized system, there is a high level of success in fulfilling
trace requests in a rather short period of time.

By contrast, other delegations described a highly centralized system
of record keeping, including Algeria which has a national, centralized
registry in paper and electronic form. The DRC delegate noted a
slightly less centralized system within which all its record keeping
for ‘weapons of force’ remains the responsibility of its Ministry of
Defense, while recreational and hunting weapons are part of a
different process. Other delegations admitted to a lack of resources
and expertise to implement record keeping on the whole. The Bahamas
explained that its Police Firearms Registry, responsible for record
keeping, is severely under-staffed with only three personnel. Trinidad
and Tobago also pointed to its lack of resources and technical
expertise to implement the ITI and, more specifically, keep accurate

The question, then, is how to formulate record keeping methodologies
that are cohesive with national legislation, financial resources, and
available expertise. As stipulated by the ITI, national governments
should, and do, have the freedom to formulate and implement a
methodology of record keeping that the state deems most appropriate.
The case of the US is evidence that states that have the capacity and
expertise can implement a highly decentralized and multi-faceted
system. Others would choose a more centralized system of data
management. In either instance, international assistance and
cooperation is necessary to help those member states that have no
capacity to implement any preferred method of record keeping and
thereby help fulfill tracing requests. Such states have little choice
in assessing record keeping options if they do not have the most basic
resources and expertise to do so. Without accurate record keeping in
these states, the tracing link is broken and progress on eradicating
the illicit trade in SALWs will be limited. Therefore, doses of
assistance and cooperation must be added to national prerogatives to
enhance the overall goal of combating the illicit trade of SALWs.