Scholars, journalists, and policymakers frequently attribute the intensity and onset of civil conflict to the abundance of small arms. However, the direction of causality has been difficult to assess due to a lack of data on the illicit small arms market and the plausibly endogenous relationship between the abundance of weapons and civil conflict. Using a new dataset of estimated small arms prices, I determine that a decrease in the price of small arms is significantly and negatively correlated with an increase in the intensity of conflict in the following year. I also determine that small arms prices increase in response to and in advance of the beginning of a civil conflict. In order to get unbiased estimates, I construct an instrumental variable, distance from disrupted stockpiles, and use it to estimate the specific effect of small arms prices in raising the risk of civil conflict onset. However, because the chosen instrument fails the exclusionary restriction the results do not provide conclusive proof of a negative causal relationship.
Barrett, Gabriel S., "Do Weapons Make Warfare? An Instrumental Variables Approach Towards Investigating the Relationship Between Small Arms Abundance, Civil Conflict Onset, and Civil Conflict Intensity" (2017). Political Science Honors Projects. 63.
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