Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Gun Sale Gone Wrong

A Sig Sauer model S P2022 pistol. (Photo from Sig Sauer website)
It seemed to be yet another routine United States arms sale to Colombia: 64,485 Sig Sauer model S P2022 pistols, with a price tag of $28.6 million.

But this sale went wrong - in two different ways.

A military equipment shop in central
Bogotá advertises Sig Sauer products.
Several months ago, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that German-made Sig Sauer pistols, part of a lot shipped here between 2007 and 2012, were in the hands of Colombian security forces. That meant a violation of German law, since Germany has not authorized the sale of such arms to Colombia out of concerns about human rights violations and Colombia's internal conflict.

The sale put the U.S. government into hot water with the Germans because the U.S. had apparently promised the Germans not to resell the arms to a third country. Ironically, the U.S. government could have legally sold Sig Sauer pistols to Colombia - if they were made in Sig Sauer's plant in New Hampshire. However, the pistols shipped to Colombia were reportedly a mix of U.S.- and German-made arms.

German officials told Semana magazine that the case was "very grave," but that it required more investigation.

Whatever the human rights challenges of Colombian security forces, this apparently illegal sale underlines the importance of regulating and monitoring international light weapons sales, as the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which is awaiting ratification, would do.

Perhaps the U.S. and German governments are monitoring these weapons to determine whether Colombian security forces employ them in human rights violations. However, they will not be able to monitor all of the pistols, because last November 100 of them were stolen from the police even before their importation process was complete.

Authorities reported recovering 36 of the pistols and arresting six people, including pawnshop owners, who'd participated in the robbery and black marketing of the guns, reports El Tiempo. A police official had sold the guns for 500,000 pesos, about US $260.00. each. But the other 64 guns are out there, likely in the hands of criminals, who may use them to rob, rape or murder civilians - or even to kill the police the guns were intended for.

By all accounts, Sig Sauers are well-made, long-lasting guns. So, Colombians will have reason to fear these weapons for many years to come.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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