Tagging of Sources

We believe that our Guide should be as transparent as possible without endangering the confidentiality of our sources. Rather than name the exact source for each unit of data, we have created tags so that users can at least know whether the data comes from a primary or secondary source, and by which medium it can or has been found. All incoming data is validated and then tagged by the project team at BICC before it enters our database.

Sources are tagged according to the following criteria:

1. Primary Sources:

These are presentations of facts. They are proof of an SALW event (e.g. a transfer, sighting, misuse, etc.) because the source was created at the time of the event itself. Primary sources as usually original documents such as transfer authorizations, firearms legislation, or academic journals presenting results of a study on SALW holdings in a particular country, for example. However, they can also be information offered by a person with direct knowledge of an SALW event or who has documented an SALW event at the time that it happened.

2. Secondary Sources:

These are interpretations or evaluation of facts. Secondary sources contain commentary and analysis of SALW events that are documented in primary sources.

Sources are also tagged according to the dominant medium of delivery:

A. Written - the source is based on written words.
B. Oral - the source is based on spoken words.
C. Visual - the source is based on seen events or optical images.

These criteria make our tags two-dimensional. While the process of classifying sources is a primarily subjective one, the project team at BICC has developed the following table to serve as an example of possible sources within each category.

Table: Examples of sources on SALW distribution

Primary Secondary
  • Fact books
  • Weapons Transfer authorizations
  • End-user certificates
  • Transcripts of interviews, legal proceedings, speeches/presentations, meetings, conferences or symposia
  • Newspaper articles
  • Written correspondence (e.g. letters, emails, text messages, etc.)
  • Blogs
  • Peer-reviewed journal articles
  • Treaties, constitution, laws
  • Records of organizations (e.g. annual reports)
  • Surveys, questionnaires


  • Wikipedia
  • Literature reviews
  • Training or safety manuals on gun control, ammunition, physical stockpile security management)
  • Minutes of meetings, conferences, symposia
  • Indexes (e.g. Global Militarization Index)
  • Newspaper articles


  • Interviews with experts, including radio or telephone
  • Legal proceedings
  • Speeches or interventions by experts or national representatives in government or international meetings

Etc ...

  • Speeches, panel presentations, etc. on data provided by experts


  • Artifacts (e.g. the weapons themselves, ammunition)
  • Photographs of weapons, ammunition, etc.
  • Videos (e.g. YouTube, those recorded by mobile phone)
  • Television documentaries, news reports

Etc ...

  • PowerPoint presentations on results found by experts


Table: Example tags

Source (sample) Type of source Medium of delivery
IHS Jane’s Weapons Infantry (2015-2016) primary written
Panel discussion of weapons use of non-state armed groups secondary oral
Documentary on paramilitaries in Colombia primary visual