It’s the Arms that kill

The European network Church and Peace has released a Statement concerning increasing arms trade and military intervention, expressing concerns about a dramatic increase in the volume of international transfers of major weapons in recent years. „Arms exports play a significant role in intensifying and perpetuating violent conflicts in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the world“, the statement says. „In light of an all-time global high number of people seeking refuge from armed conflict, it is crucial to end the arms trade.“

I’d like to take this opportunity to address a popular misconception, saying that it is not the weapon that kills but the human. The former German minister of defence Thomas de Maizière even once declared weapons to be „ethically neutral“.

The prospect of autonomous killer robots gives a new perspective to this question: No doubt, such machines would be weapons that kill by themselves, with humans only giving the general commands. You may then ask for the difference to tele-operated drones which get their commands to release a weapon by the same communication channels as human soldiers. So isn’t it really the drone that kills, ordered to do so by a human? And you may ask the same question concerning firearms: Isn’t it the gun that kills, commanded by a human by showing the direction where to shoot and moving the index finger? Without the gun the human would be extremely limited in his ability to kill.

Using a knife, a sword, or bow and arrow, it may reasonably be argued that it’s the human that kills, since he is still utilizing the forces of his own body. But with firearms you are commanding external forces. It’s the arms that kill. Tools with the only purpose of destroying and killing can’t be considered as ethically neutral. If you want peace on Earth, you need to limit the number of firearms, stop their production and trade. Though not a member of any church myself, I therefore fully support the statement of Church and Peace.

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