This dissertation addresses the question of how arms acquisition by non-state groups relates to violence. While existing research has explored how armament by state forces has an impact on interstate or intrastate war, the role of acquisition by non-state groups has received little attention. This dissertation is therefore exploratory in nature. Its aim is to generate theoretical insights, partly through the use of new or little used data sources, that can be built upon in further research. The five different articles included in this dissertation tease out the specific role that weapons play by delving into six main areas of focus: the extent to which arms are essential; their ease of acquisition; the impact of arms on injury and deaths; the effect of arms on a group’s strategy; how arms acquisition affects fragmentation of an insurgency; and the effect of state governance on arms acquisition. The aim is to understand how each of these factors play a role in the intensity and forms of violence. Key findings are that:
– Arms are often scarce and difficult to obtain, and there is a large amount of geographical and temporal variation in the ease by which they are acquired.
– The ease by which groups intent on violence can acquire arms is a more important factor than the total number of arms in society, and the two may well not be congruent.
– Arms acquisition is not a sufficient cause of violence. Arms provide opportunities for violence, which may not be used.
– In some circumstances arms acquisition is a necessary condition for violence.