Violence from small arms
Mark soft target
By Jürgen Grässlin
Heckler & Koch Ltd (H&K) has its headquarters in Oberndorf am Neckar – less than 30 kilometres beeline from Villingen-Schwenningen, the venue of the Target Human congress. The medium-sized enterprise founded in 1949 owes its rise to the development and sale of the automatic rifle G3 and further weapons of war: to the Federal Armed Forces and officially to minimum 88 states, along with NATO states also to non-NATO states and third countries with numerous dictatorships. Owing to an unchecked arms export policy H&K advanced to Europe’s largest producer and exporter of rifles and pistols.
Within two decades the Federal Government being the licenser chartered reproductive rights of the G3 to 15 states: Portugal (1961), Pakistan (1963), Sweden (1964), Norway, Iran and Turkey (all 1967), Saudi-Arabia (1969), France (1969), Thailand (1971), Brazil (ca 1976), Greece (1977), Mexico (1979) and Myanmar (former Burma 1981). Furthermore one can assume that the Philippines and Malaysia have obtained licenses for the G3. Still today G3 rifles are manufactured in several of these states and exported for example in Iran under Ahmadinedschad. As the average period of use of small arms is calculated on 50 years, the spread of H&K arms has increased steadily within the last decades.
After the Kalashnikov with up to 100 million copies, the G3 rifle is number two on the global market with about 15 million sold copies, utilised by soldiers and child soldiers, guerilla units and terrorists worldwide. Calculations of the international campaign Control Arms even refer to “between 15 and 20 million” G3 circulating – whereas the so called H&K-“family of arms” ranges from pistols up to machine guns.
While the G3 production worldwide is running down slowly and the millions of assault rifles will be in use for several decades, the successor models have taken off on their triumphal course long since: the first new markets have opened up with the assault rifles HK416 and the HK417. But ahead all the G36 is capturing the global weaponry market.
The new assault rifle is shorter (999mm instead of 1020 mm with fixed shoulder support) and lighter (between 2.8 and 3.6 kg instead of 4.4 kg) than the G3. At the same time a cadence (shooting frequency) of 750 shots per minute from all G36 versions is much higher than the one from the G3 of 600 shots per minute. Even if the calculation is theoretical given to the necessary exchange of the magazine, the killing option of many humans within shortest time is apparent.
Already in 1996 the Krisenreaktionskräfte (KRK, the German Crisis Reactive Forces) were equipped with G36, followed by the whole Federal Armed Forces. The success is no coincidence. “Like a lion” he fought for the G36, Volker Kauder strutted – in his capacity as leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group and responsible chairman of the constituency Oberndorf. During a visit of the H&K headquarters Andreas Heeschen, H&K main shareholder, used the opportunity to thank the arms lobbyist Kauder: “again and again” he has “held his protective hand over us (…), when it came to export licences”. With significant success. Already today security forces in about 30 states shoot with the new miracle weapon, others will follow.
Still under the Christian-liberal Federal Government Helmut Kohl and Klaus Kinkel the grant of a G36 license to Spain was approved. But the arms export with the most serious consequences in the past decade happened under the CDU/CSU/SPD-led government Merkel/Steinmeier. The great coalition granted a licensing of G36 for the kingdom Saudi-Arabia, which violates human rights. Even though the negative experiences of the G3 licensing to Riad clearly proved that the Saudi military had broken the contractually guaranteed end use of weapons and had supplied human rights abusing and belligerent governments illegally. Against this background it would be scarcely surprising, if the producing company MIC multiplicatively re-exported assault rifles – this time the type G36 – unlawfully in the future after equipping their own armed forces. The G36 disaster runs its course, widely uncontrolled. The enterprise has two other irons in the fire: the new precision rifle G28 and the grenade launcher XM25, which will revolutionise the international arms market and increase the number of victims.
The decades lasting unrestrained direct exports of war weapons from Oberndorf and the excessive number of licensing for G36 (by the Federal Government) as well as submachine guns, assault rifles and machine guns (on the part of H&K) result in dramatic effects. If you painted a states’ map, one fact would be obvious: the documentation of the global distribution and use of weapons of H&K arms leaves space for only two white spots. The former member states of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation – dominated by the Kalashnikov manufacturers – and the Antarctica. Hardly any war, that wasn’t waged with H&K arms, normally on both sides of the hostile parties in the conflict.
Even though the determination of the casualty figures is based on a combination of facts and estimations, my extensive research proves: since the munitions production started up in the mid 1950s more than two million people have died from the bullets shot from barrels of H&K arms. Many more have been mutilated all their life, almost all are traumatised. In view of this death balance Heckler & Koch is Europe’s deadliest company.
Regardless of this human catastrophe Heckler & Koch uses the advertising slogan “No compromise” on the defense exhibition IDEX in Abu Dhabi 2011.
Please note, at a time when in the Maghreb, the Near and Middle East the Arab Spring was shot down also with H&K munitions. In former years the small arms manufacturer from Oberndorf advertised that the technical advantages of killing: “The effect on soft targets is according to the international treaties”. Within short distances there is no projectile decomposition “in the soft target” – that meant humans. However, gone are the times, when the enterprise can operate as they wish. In April 2010 I brought charges against leading H&K managers on suspicion of illegal G36 rifle exports in banned provinces in Mexico. Two house searches by the Public Prosecutor’s Office Stuttgart, the State Office of Criminal Investigation Baden-Württemberg respectively the Customs Criminological Office followed. The Managing Director Peter Beyerle resigned. Meanwhile the members of the campaign Aktion Aufschrei – Stoppt den Waffenhandel! have brought charges against Heckler & Koch a second time, this time on suspicion of illegal G36 rifles exports to the dictatorial regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya.
In view of the obvious basis of the indications in the case of Mexico, it can be assumed that the criminal proceeding against H&K top managers will be initiated in the second half of the year 2013.
Jürgen Grässlin has been one of the most significant opponent of armament in Germany for many years. He is spokesman of the campaign Aktion Aufschrei – Stoppt den Waffenhandel!. His Black List Arms Trade. How Germany makes money out of war is released in May 2013.