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Gun Ownership in Iraq
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Jim Henley thinks that I should research and write about the evenness of gun ownership in Iraq under Saddam Hussein (an era that seems to be drawing to a long-awaited conclusion).

In Electrolite's comments, Derek James doubts that guns are evenly distributed throughout Iraqi society. "I am highly skeptical, for example," he writes, "that there is any sort of parity of gun ownership between the Shia and Sunni populations. Can anyone point to reliable sources on this?" This strikes me as a great thing for Derek James to research and blog about.

Yeah, and I'm still skeptical. The resources for this sort of information on the net are pretty paltry, and even after quite a bit of digging, I'm not satisfied that I'm any closer to the truth on this issue.

But here are a few sources I've come across.

First, from the original Washington Post article that I quoted over on David Moles' site:

The large-scale distribution of weapons began during the war with Iran, when the government gave Iraqi-made AK-47s to decommissioned soldiers, members of the ruling Baath Party and tribal leaders. But it has dramatically escalated in recent months. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said last month that officials had handed out "hundreds of thousands of weapons" since the Bush administration began deploying additional forces to the Persian Gulf.

One group largely left out of the gun distribution has been Shiite Muslims, who make up about 55 percent of the population but whose allegiance has been questioned by Hussein and other top leaders, who are predominantly Sunni Muslims.

The Washington Post is probably more reliable than the other sources I'll be quoting, though they certainly don't elaborate on how they came across this information. The report does strongly suggest that gun ownership in Baghdad is not evenly distributed.

But here are a couple of other sites I found. This report from IANSA, an international anti-gun group:

According to media reports, Iraq is one of the most heavily armed countries in the world. It is believed that there are enough guns in Iraq for at least every person in Iraq to possess one, a level similar to gun ownership in clans in Yemen and Somalia, as well as in the United States. With a population of approximately 24 million, that means there could be millions of small arms in the hands of civilians.

What's wrong with the inherent logic in this snippet? I'll leave that quote for my fellow skeptics to shred. (Hint: it has to do with the main topic of this post, how evenly the guns are distributed.)

And then there are reports like these, that leading up to the war suggested that Iraqi Gun Shops were selling out of ammo and weaponry.

Gun culture is deeply ingrained in Iraq, where anyone over 25 can buy such weapons. That culture is encouraged by Saddam Hussein himself. Baghdad is festooned with large posters of the Iraqi leader in various proud poses handling guns. Possessing guns is seen as a mark of honor among tribal Arabs, of whom Saddam is one.

Though this is from the World Press Review, which I've never heard of before.

At this point, I would welcome any input from anybody out there who surely knows more than me on this subject and can suggest or point to semi-reliable sources.

Most totalitarian dictators, including Hussein's hero, Stalin, outlawed gun ownership among the general population. I have no problem believing that gun ownership in Iraq was prevalent among Hussein's goons, lackeys, and other loyalists.

But I have yet to find reliable information suggesting the widespread "gun culture" mentioned above.

Anybody want to help with this one?

Update: True to his word, Jon did indeed send me a few articles from Lexis/Nexis. However, they are more of the same stuff I've already found, anecdotal reporting along the lines of:

Mohammed, owner of the Rootin'-Tootin' Gun Shop in downtown Baghdad, noted a few days before the war that, "Geez, the ammo is flying off the shelves. Those infidels are going to be cruisin' for an ass-whoopin'!"

What I'm really looking for are studies, intelligence, independent surveys...anything reliable and somewhat comprehensive estimating the levels and distribution of firearms in Iraq before the war. I've found plenty of piecemeal anecdotes, and that just ain't gonna do it.

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