Not many Nottingham residents are aware of it, but the city is home to a major multinational arms company. An anonymous warehouse on an industrial estate in Lenton is the UK headquarters of Heckler & Koch – one of the world’s largest manufacturers of handguns, assault rifles, submachine guns, machine guns and grenade launchers.
Small arms – the type of weapons sold by Heckler & Koch – are the true weapons of mass destruction. Half a million people are killed by small arms each year, three quarters of whom are civilians. Millions more have to flee their homes due to small arms warfare. Literally millions of H&K small arms are in use in over 90 countries:
- In Darfur, the Janjaweed have been armed with H&K assault rifles.
- Heckler & Koch machine guns are currently being used by notoriously trigger-happy corporate mercenaries Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- In Kenya, H&K guns were used in the 2008 post-election massacres.
- In Kosovo, Serbian police used H&K guns to murder Albanian villagers.
- Georgian elite forces fighting in South Ossetia have been illegally armed with Heckler & Koch assault rifles.
It is Heckler & Koch’s Nottingham office that is responsible for the company’s “international customer sales“.
The company has shipped guns from the UK to warzones such as Bosnia and Nepal, and has licensed its weapons for production by regimes with poor human rights records such as Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar. Furthermore the company effectively evaded UK and EU export restrictions when these licensees sold H&K weapons on to conflict zones including Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Sierra Leone.
Legal loopholes, brokers and gunrunners make it all too easy to evade arms embargoes, as comedian Mark Thomas demonstrated by arranging a shipment of German-made H&K submachine guns to Mugabe’s brutal regime in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, small arms have a very long shelf life and older models are often resold to countries with poor human rights records. The Heckler & Koch G3 rifle is still used by the often murderous armed forces of Angola, Bangladesh, Brazil and Ethiopia. These examples illustrate the unethical and uncontrolled nature of the industry in which the company is proud to operate.
75% of the world’s small arms end up in the hands of criminal gangs and civilians, prompting a lethal arms race between criminals and police in which the only winners are arms dealers such as Heckler & Koch. Not only are H&K guns used by British police, they are also smuggled into the UK to be used by organised criminal gangs. In a city that has become infamous for gun crime, it is obscene that this company is selling guns to customers around the world.
It is perhaps for these reasons that Heckler & Koch does not advertise its presence in Nottingham. Its official address is a PO Box, its industrial unit is completely unsignposted, and unwanted callers are discouraged by rapid armed response from Nottinghamshire Police, acting as the company’s own security guards.
Outraged by the presence of such an unethical company, a group of Nottingham residents established a campaign called Shut Down H&K. The campaign holds monthly demonstrations outside Heckler & Koch’s office at Unit 3, Easter Park, Lenton Lane, Nottingham NG7 2PX. If you don’t want Nottingham to be home to a company that profits from war, sign up to the mailing list and get involved. Let’s make Nottingham an unwelcoming place for arms dealers!
- Small Arms Survey 2001 – Profiling the Problem, Oxford University Press.
- Thomas, Mark (2006), As Used On The Famous Nelson Mandela, London: Ebury Press.
- Abel, Peter, Manufacturing Trends: Globalising the Source in Lumpe, Lora (ed.) (2000), Running Guns: The Global Black Market in Small Arms, London: Zed Books.
- A Catalogue of Failures: G8 Arms Exports and Human Rights Violations (2003-05-19), Amnesty International.
- Out of Control – The loopholes in UK controls on the arms trade (1998-12), Oxfam GB.
- Wright, Steve (2001-01), A Legal Trade In Death, Le Monde Diplomatique.
- Undermining Global Security: the European Union’s arms exports (2004-02-01), Amnesty International.
- Small Arms Survey 2007 – Guns And The City, Cambridge University Press