Marking and tracing
If national law enforcement officials were able to trace small arms back to their last legitimate owner, who might then be held accountable, this would form an effective measure against illicit trade and diversion. For that purpose, it is essential that the weapon be marked upon production and import, and that appropriate records be kept. Existing stocks should also be marked. Although many weapons are marked upon production and import, international cooperation in marking and tracing of small arms is in its infancy.
Traders and brokers
The vast majority of small arms are sold and transferred legally, but global patterns of supply of small arms and light weapons have changed profoundly over the past few decades. This has complicated controls. In the past, arms markets were relatively easy to survey, with far fewer supply outlets and less intermediate activity. Typically, closing a deal and delivering the goods were done by State authorities or Government agents. The use of private intermediaries has become common practice. These actors now routinely arrange transactions for defence industries, armed forces, law enforcement agencies and suppliers to Government as well as private entities, operating in a particularly globalized environment and often from multiple locations.
Contemporary traders, agents, brokers, shippers and financiers may well combine activities, making it difficult at times to distinguish small arms trade from brokering. Governments must assure that the shipments handled through these often complex networks are regulated according to the rule of law.
Investigations of arms embargo violations by the monitoring groups of the Security Council have exposed some international networks involved in the illicit trade and brokering of small arms. These brokers and dealers exploit legal loopholes, evade customs and airport controls and falsify documents such as passports, end-user certificates, cargo papers and flight schedules. Illicit activities by certain brokers and traders - and by the Government officials they collude with - have violated every UN arms embargo, with small arms and ammunition as the main items transferred.
A recurring problem concerning the proliferation of small arms, in particular in zones of crisis and conflict, is the absence of a normative framework for all States to guide decisions regarding arms transfers.