The Method behind the Mark: A Review of Firearm Marking Technologies (Issue Brief 1)

Giacomo Persi Paoli
Issue Brief

The marking of small arms is a necessary component of record-keeping, linking a specific small arm to a unique record for that item. A robust record-keeping system provides the means to trace small arms and investigate the illicit trade, thus helping to limit the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons. 

The Method behind the Mark: A Review of Firearm Marking Technologies, a new Issue Brief from the Small Arms Survey, offers an in-depth analysis of different marking technologies and methods, describing the strengths, limitations, and costs of each. This publication will be a valuable tool for states to use in choosing the most effective solution for their specific needs. 

Marking is included in all of the main international and regional instruments to curb the illicit trade in small arms, but discrepancies between the marking requirements of different instruments often result in ambiguity, especially for states that are party to one or more instrument. As a result, current marking practices, including marking methods, vary widely from state to state, even within the same region.

Despite the differences in marking practices, the application of adequate marking on small arms is among states’ obligations as part of overall international efforts to facilitate firearm traceability. Proper marking and efficient record-keeping are two interdependent factors of any effective plan to investigate and interdict illicit small arms trafficking and, as such, they are key features of solid and effective arms control.

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Keywords: Markings Tracing ITI Illicit trafficking