"I would want to repeat, because there are people around who either have not heard this, or do not want to hear," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday. "We are not negotiating a global ban, nor do we wish to deny law-abiding citizens their right to bear arms in accordance with their national laws."
In the days leading up to the U.N. Small Arms Review Conference, which began Monday and will run until July 7, the U.S. National Rifle Association conducted a letter-writing campaign protesting the conference.
Pro-arms-control groups collected signatures worldwide to counter the NRA effort under a Million Faces Campaign Petition, handed to Annan Monday.
The secretary-general's comments echoed those by Keith Krause, program director of the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey. Krause said the NRA opposition forced them to narrow the conference to illegal weapons.
"Because of this, we focused on 'armed groups' because the term 'non-state actors' meant everybody," Krause said.
A report, the Small Arms Survey: 2006, estimated 77 percent of small arms are in 20 countries.
China is believed to hold the largest stock of firearms, with 41 million; followed by Russia, 30 million; and North Korea, 14 million. The United States had 3 million small arms.
Annan said a quarter of the estimated $4 billion annual global gun trade is illicit.
"Our targets remain unscrupulous arms brokers, corrupt officials, drug-trafficking syndicates, criminals and others who bring death and mayhem to our communities and who ruin lives and destroy, in minutes, the labor of years," he said.
"To halt the destructive march of armed conflict and crime, we must stop such purveyors of death."