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Dynamic Determinants of Access to Weapons: Global Evidence

Which country has more access to weapons? Simplice Asongu* and Joseph Nnanna** answer this key question.

* African Governance and Development Institute.

**Development Institute and Development Bank of Nigeria


This study investigates the determinants of and persistence in access to weapons using a global sample of 163 countries for the period 2010 to 2015. The empirical evidence is based on Generalised Method of Moments (GMM). Hysteresis in access to weapons is consistently more apparent in countries with below-median levels in access to weapons, compared to their counterparts with above-median levels in access to weapons. The hysteresis hypothesis within this context is the propensity of past values of access to weapons to influence future values of access to weapons. Factors that consistently drive access to weapons are: perceptions of crime; criminality; conflict intensity; political instability; military expenditure, violent demonstrations and terrorism. The effects of these drivers are contingent on initial levels of access to weapons. Policy recommendations for managing access to weapons are discussed.

Keywords: Access to Weapons; Global Evidence; Persistence; Arms; Security

1. Introduction

The purpose of this study builds on three tendencies in policy and academic circles, notably: (i) the increasing cost of conflicts in the globe; (ii) the relevance of policy makers to have insights into the hysteresis (or persistence) of access to weapons and determinants of such hysteresis and (iii) attendant gaps in the literature. The highlighted points are substantiated in the same chronology.

First, the cost of conflicts and crime is steadily increasing across the world. This now represents a substantial policy syndrome, not least because as of 2014, about 13% of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was allocated to preventing and mitigating the consequences of terrorism and conflicts. This narrative is consistent with the Global Peace Index (GPI, 2015) and Asongu and Kodila-Tedika (2017). To put this point into more perspective, the corresponding annual expenditure is equivalent to the GDP of the following countries: the United Kingdom (UK), Spain, Germany, France, Canada and Brazil. Access to weapons is logically a fundamental cause of conflicts and crimes for which the substantial proportion of global GDP is devoted to curtailing. In the light of the other global development concerns (e.g. the post-2015 development agenda), the underlying expenditure might be better spent in addressing concerns surrounding the achievement of sustainable development goals.

Second, given the importance of access to weapons in fuelling conflicts and wars, it is relevant for policy to have insights into factors that drive the persistence in access to weapons and how such persistence varies across important fundamentals (e.g. income levels and regional proximity). In essence, a critical understanding of these concerns can enlighten policy makers on measures that can be implemented to prevent, reduce or increase access to weapons, contingent on policy objectives.

Third, this study is also important because of an apparent gap in the literature. Accordingly, as far as we have reviewed, the extant literature has not focused on determinants of and persistence in access to weapons in the world. Accordingly, the existing literature surrounding the subject matter can be summarized in two categories, namely, on: determinants of access to weapons and drivers of the weaponry industry. With regard to the latter category, studies have focused on, inter alia: nuclear proliferation and security guarantees (Bleek & Lorber, 2015); questioning the incidence of nuclear weapons on conflicts and wars (Bell & Miller, 2015); the relationship between nuclear deployment, nonproliferation and nuclear strategy (Fuhrmann & Sechser, 2014); investigating the relevance of possessing nuclear weapons (Suni, 2015) and the importance of weapon law and assault weapon bans on murder rates (Gius, 2014).

As concerns the former category, the literature has largely articulated, among others: mitigating access to weapons by individuals who have suicide intensions (Barber & Miller, 2014); access to firearms by citizens who are victimized by mental disorders (Pinals et al., 2015); the importance of technological corporation in the fabrication of nuclear weapons (Brown & Kaplow, 2014); defence signals and defensive weapons in plants (Maag et al., 2015) and nexuses between ornaments, the choice of weapons and sex (McCullough et al., 2016).

The theoretical basis for investigating the determinant of access to weapons is broadly in line with both contemporary and non-contemporary literature on the hysteresis (or persistence) of (in) economic phenomena. On the contemporary front, we find recent studies that have focused on inclusive development (see Mayer-Foulkes, 2010; Asongu, 2014; Asongu & Nwachukwu, 2017a); financial intermediary development (Stephan & Tsapin, 2008; Goddard et al., 2011) and stock market development (Narayan et al., 2011; Bruno et al., 2012; Asongu, 2013). Conversely, non-contemporary studies constitute the bulk of seminal papers on cross-country economic convergence (see Baumol, 1986; Barro, 1991; Mankiw et al., 1992; Barro & Sala-i-Martin, 1992, 1995).

It is worthwhile to articulate that, new theories of economic growth were constructed in the post-Keynesian era. In essence, the theoretical studies became prominent owing to considerable improvements in the neoclassical revolution which culminated in significant changes in cross-country differences in income levels. Concepts of market equilibrium models were proposed and applied within this theoretical framework. Such models were essentially founded on economic growth theories which predicted absolute decrease in crosscountry variations in income levels (see Mayer-Foulkes, 2010). Consistent with MayerFoulkes (2010), the highlighted convergence trends in per capita income have been fundamentally traceable to the positive externalities from “free market competition”. The attendant convergence literature can be summarized into two main schools of thought. First, one strand of studies has established the presence of divergence or the absence of convergence. This strand is substantiated with the arguments that owing to multiple equilibria and the variations in initial endowments, it is not feasible to establish convergence in income levels across nations (Barro, 1991; Pritchett, 1997). Conversely, another strand of the theoretical literature holds that, regardless of initial conditions, variations in income levels across countries can occur within the perspective of countries’ steady state and long-run equilibrium (Asongu & Nwachukwu, 2017a).

It is relevant to clarify that this study is not positioned to confirm or reject any of the contending strands. The purpose of the inquiry is to leverage on the information criteria used by both studies to either reject or confirm the evidence of convergence. In order to provide more space for policy implications, the analysis is tailored to emphasize initial levels of access to weapons. The motivation for articulating initial levels of the outcome indicator is that blanket policies on determinants of and persistence in access to weapons may be ineffective, unless they are contingent on existing levels of access to weapons and therefore tailored distinctly across countries with high and low levels in access to weapons. Consistent with contemporary development literature, the emphasis of fundamental features is critical to results with more robust policy implications (D’Amico, 2010; Narayan et al., 2011; Beegle et al., 2016; Mlachila et al., 2017; Asongu & le Roux, 2017; Asongu & Nwachukwu, 2017b; Asongu et al., 2017, 2018a, 2018b, 2018c).

The rest of the study is organized as follows. The data and methodology are covered in Section 2 while Section 3 presents and discusses the results. Section 4 concludes with future research directions.

Suggested Citation:

Asongu, Simplice and Nnanna, Joseph, Dynamic Determinants of Access to Weapons: Global Evidence (February 3, 2019). Forthcoming: Foreign Trade Review. Available at SSRN: or


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