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Papua New Guinea has been significantly affected by armed violence for decades. With more than 80 per cent of the population living in rural areas, the country continues to be affected by the proliferation of small arms, including the significant role they play in tribal warfare, crime and conflicts.1 The arms circulating in Papua New Guinea originate either from national stockpiles that have been raided or distributed by corrupt officials, or are left over from the Second World War. In addition, large areas of the land and sea borders are difficult to patrol, which makes the country vulnerable to gun smuggling.2

Australia and New Zealand have provided assistance in strengthening the security of stockpiles and enhancing the management of armouries in the country, including training and funding for weapon destruction programmes.3 The country’s guiding gun control legislation includes the Firearms Act of 1978.4


1 Philip Alpers, Gun-running in Papua New Guinea: From Arrows to Assault Weapons in the Southern Highlands (Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 2005),

2 Kerry Maze and Yvette Issar, International Assistance for Implementing the UN Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in SALW in All Its Aspect Case Study of the South Pacific (Geneva: UN Institute for Disarmament Research, 2009),

3 Ibid.

4 Philip Alpers and Marcus Wilson, Papua New Guinea – Gun Facts, Figures and the Law (, Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, 2022),

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Map of Papua New Guinea

Further information

Accidental explosions

Since the Small Arms Survey began collecting data in 1979, no accidental explosions have been reported in Papua New Guinea.

Source: “Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS) Database,” Small Arms Survey, updated December 15, 2021,

Cases of diversion

Numerous cases of diversion have been reported in Papua New Guinea.

Table 1. Cases of diversion of arms, ammunition and explosives in Papua New Guinea





Throughout the country

About 30% of all small arms have been stolen from police reserves, and 694 defence force firearms from the military.


Throughout the country

One hundred police firearms were stolen, including: 10 machine guns; 32 M16 automatic assault rifles; 25 SIG Sauer pistols; 5 semi-automatic shotguns; and thousands of rounds of ammunition.


Throughout the country

At least 42 high-powered military weapons were stolen from defence force armouries.


Throughout the country

About 85 high-powered firearms were stolen from police armouries.

Source: Alpers, Gun-running in Papua New Guinea.


In 2014 – with the help of personnel from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and the Solomon Islands – 109 sites on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville were cleared of 2,293 ammunition items containing 16 tonnes of explosives.

Source: “NZDF to Help Destroy Unexploded Munitions in Solomon Islands,” SCOOP Independent News, September 2, 2016,


To further enhance safe and secure ammunition management, the following needs have been identified for Papua New Guinea:

  • Development or refinement of standards and procedures on stockpile management; and
  • Capacity development for the destruction of surplus stockpiles.

Source: Papua New Guinea, National Report on the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI), (New York: Permanent Mission of Papua New Guinea to the UN, 2012),

Published Date: Monday 21 of August 2023