NI: Belfast film-goers shocked by new advertisement offering AK47s for sale

Belfast cinema-goers will be shocked this week by a new advertisement offering AK47 machine-guns for sale among the ads for cars and soft drinks. They will see presenters talking-up the firepower and reliability of the AK47, as a young boy demonstrates how the gun is so easy to use that even a child can fire it. They are even offered free ammunition when they call to place their order with advertisers Teleshop.

But viewers will be relieved to find that the ad is by Amnesty International, spoofing a TV shopping channel to highlight the ease with which weapons can be bought and sold due to lax controls on the international Arms. A final caption reads “The Arms is out of control” and asks people to text the word “ARMS” and their full name to 84118 to join a petition for tough action to control the sales of deadly weapons.

The cinema ad – being screened at the Warner Village cinema at Belfast’s Odyssey complex - is part of a much wider campaign. A glossy mail order ‘small arms catalogue’ from the fictitious Teleshop company - shot by celebrity photographer Sean Gleason - will feature models posing with machine guns and automatic pistols. A viral email campaign will surprise internet users with fake special offers for weapons. And a ‘roadshow’ will tour shopping centres across the country with fake salespeople demonstrating the ease with which an AK47 can be assembled and fired.

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan said:

“We know that some people in Northern Ireland might find our Teleshop advert disturbing and we are very sensitive to feelings here. But what’s truly shocking is that one person dies every minute from armed violence. And there is a scandalous lack of controls to stop weapons getting into the wrong hands. In some countries people tell us that guns are as easy to come by as a pack of cigarettes.

“People here can do something about this. Just by texting us their name, they can join a global petition that we will present to the UN in June, calling for an Arms Treaty to keep guns out of the wrong hands. And by joining Amnesty in Northern Ireland they can help us stop the human rights abuses that are happening every day around the world.”

National arms controls around the world are riddled with loopholes, allowing weapons to be sold to conflict zones and countries which repress and torture their people. A 2005 report from Amnesty International exposed shipments of over 240 metric tonnes of weapons, including millions of rounds of Kalashnikov ammunition, from eastern Europe to governments in Africa’s war-torn Great Lakes region.

Amnesty traced the supply of weapons and ammunition to the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda and their subsequent distribution to armed groups and militia in the eastern DRC that have been involved in massacres, mutilation and mass rapes of civilians. Worryingly, three of the companies involved in these arms deliveries operated from the UK.

And in the UK too, British arms brokers are easily able to evade lax controls, simply by stepping outside the country to conduct their deals. Current UK procedures are also woefully inadequate at monitoring how arms exports are used, prompting government minister Ian Pearson to concede that the UK has little knowledge or control over where its arms exports end up.

Amnesty International is calling for an international Arms Treaty which would create legally binding arms controls and ensure that all governments regulate arms sales to the same basic international standards. The UK is one of over 40 countries that have stated their support for such a treaty.

The Teleshop advert will run for four weeks in cinemas nationwide, including at Belfast's Odyssey complex, and will be seen by an estimated two million people. The film has been made possible thanks to Pearl and Dean, who have provided Amnesty International with the media space.

Amnesty International has launched this groundbreaking idea, supporting its work to control the Arms, as part of its Protect the Human initiative. Over the coming months, Amnesty International will give people new and different ways to stand up for humanity and human rights through www.protectthehuman.com .

DVDs and stills from the film are available on request from the Amnesty International UK press office. Spokespeople are available for comment.

Killer Facts

One person is killed every minute through armed violence – around 500,000 men, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and Children's rights every year.

300,000 child soldiers are currently involved in conflicts.

There are over 639 million small arms on the planet, one for every ten people.

Nearly eight million small arms are newly manufactured every year, and at least 16 billion units of military ammunition were manufactured in 2001 alone: enough to kill everyone on the planet twice.

The global Arms is worth $21 billion per year.

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