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Every bullet has a story - reflections from a Zambian doctor

Posted by Rachel George Digital Campaigns Manager

25th Oct 2012

A spent bullet casing

This blog is by Dr. Robert Mtonga, a medical doctor (general practitioner) from Lusaka, Zambia and was originally posted on the Control Arms blog.

Dr. Mtonga currently serves as Co-President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and is a former Board Member and International Councillor. He has worked on many anti-armed violence movements, bringing a health and medical perspective to each campaign.

"Here are four scenarios that I have lived through that have motivated me to campaign for an Arms Trade Treaty to control the deadly trade in weapons. Picture a boy, aged 13 years and full of naivety; he did not know his father's firearm was unsecured and loaded. He called three of his friends and asked them to line-up so that they could do enact a mock "007" James Bond scene. He asked them to duck when he pulled the trigger. One of the three chickened out and he was labeled as a coward. The boy with the gun pulled the trigger and before he knew it one of his peers was dead. 

"Picture a surgeon, on her way home to rest. As she pulled up at her gate, two masked men accosted her. They wanted the car. Entranced by shock and benumbed by fear, she failed to obey the order. The next time she blinked, she was on a hospital bed with a bandaged head. A speeding bullet had claimed part of her scalp. 

"Picture a man, presidential material in Zambian political circles, from a family of political junkies. Unbeknown to him and his family; his rivals had other plans. A hired assassin made it his unpleasant duty to take this man out. The doctors that attended to him did all they could to sew his shattered liver and spleen. Boy how these organs bleed! After 12 hours of earnest endeavor to save his life, the doctors threw in the towel. 

"Picture a chubby businessman of some stature whose business included guns and bullets. When I asked him if he knew that firearms by design, and certainly by effect, take away lives and limbs and that they cause human suffering, he told me without blinking and at point-blank that he was not a humanist! 

"These narratives partly informed my decision to join the campaign to regulate the transfer of conventional arms. The business man and the three victims were all looking at the gun and its ammunition. One from the butt and the three from the barrel end. If the gun was not fired, if the gun was not loaded, if the business man was a humanist, maybe the lives of the three and countless others could have been saved."

An ATT without ammunition in its criteria will not make an impact on the ground. An ATT that does not have a humanitarian code will not save lives and limbs. An ATT that has loopholes will not save as many lives. An ATT that does not oblige exporters to conduct a risk assessment before transferring guns and ammunition will not be worth the paper it will be written on. The hour has come to plug the loopholes. It is not too late.

Blog post written by Rachel George

Digital Campaigns Manager

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Rachel George