The global small arms epidemic

York’s Colloquium on the Global South will feature a lecture titled “The Global Small Arms Epidemic: A Public Health Perspective” by Professor Wendy Cukier of Ryerson University. The event will take place today, from 2:30 to 4:30pm, in room 305, York Lanes, Keele campus.

Cukier, right, who has a York PhD in management science and is co-founder of Canada’s Coalition for Gun Control, will focus on the role that guns play in global violence. Violence fuelled by small arms kills hundreds of thousands of people each year with many more injured. The World Health Organization has labelled violence a global pandemic.

Cukier will examine the shape of gun violence which varies from region to region. It is estimated that more than 200 thousand gun deaths occur in countries which are “at peace” each year: 35,000 in Brazil; 10,000 in South Africa; and 30,000 in the USA. In Colombia the number is about 20,000 and it is estimated that in 1998-99, the number of violent deaths from small arms in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala exceeded those that had occurred in the respective civil wars. Major small arms producers include the US, China and Russia. Worldwide, over half of small arms are in the possession of civilians, 200 million of them in the USA. Although guns do not in themselves “cause” violence, they increase its lethality and fuel “cultures of violence”, asserts Cukier in the abstract presented for the colloquium.

Her presentation will examine the strong association between the availability of guns and gun-related death and injury in both the north and south. Virtually every illegal small arm begins as legal small arm. With the globalization of trade in licit products has come the globalization of the illegal trade in small arms – weapons originating in the United States for example, fuel violence in Canada and Latin America but also account for many of the weapons seized as far away as Japan. Since 1998 there has been an emerging global NGO movement to control the illicit trade and misuse in small arms with a comprehensive strategy addressing both supply and demand.

Currently there are a range of activities at the national, regional and global level, says Cukier. One such campaign is the Control Arms Campaign and its associated Million Faces Petition, a joint project of IANSA (International Action Network on Small Arms), Amnesty International and Oxfam. International cooperation is critical because weapons tend to flow from unregulated areas to regulated areas. Global efforts have been limited by major arms producers and gun lobbies such as the National Rifle Association.

The Colloquium on the Global South provides an open space for debate and critical inquiry for students, faculty members, NGOs, social activists, and policy makers. Presented by the University Consortium on the Global South at York University, the event is free and does not require pre-registration. For further information, or to register for updates, check the University Consortium on the Global South Web site or e-mail Miguel Gonzalez at

More about Wendy Cukier

Cukier is a professor of communications and culture, and information technology management at Ryerson University in Toronto. Since 2004 she has also been the associate dean, academic, of the Faculty of Business. In 1990 she co-founded Canada’s Coalition for Gun Control, which is supported by 350 public safety organizations and has been credited with the passage of two major pieces of legislation.

A founding member of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), she coordinates the Small Arms Firearms Education and Research Network (SAFER-Net) which conducts research on various aspects of firearms violence and prevention. She has published more than 200 articles on aspects of firearms control and has consulted to governments around the world, most recently in South Africa.

Her book, the Global Gun Epidemic: From Saturday Night Specials to AK47s will be published this year by Praeger. She has also published extensively on coalition building and advocacy. 

Cukier’s work has been recognized with a Docteur d’Universite (HC) from the Faculty of Medicine, Laval University (1996) and a LLD (HC) from Concordia University (1997), the Canadian Public Health Association’s Award of Merit (1996), Jewish Women International Woman of the Year (1995), a YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, as well as the Governor General’s Meritorious Service (2000). Cukier has a PhD in management science from York.