Defying warnings from the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John F. Kerry signed the United Nations Small Arms Trade Treaty Sept. 25 at the UN headquarters in New York City.
“The ATT raises significant legislative and constitutional questions. Any act to implement this treaty, provisionally or otherwise, before the Congress provides its advice and consent would be fundamentally inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution, law, and practice,” said Sen. Robert P. Corker (R.-Tenn.), the senior GOP senator on that chamber foreign relations panel.
Corker said he was asserting the Senate’s constitutional role on treaties.
The senator emphasized his position in a letter to President Barack Obama, including his concerns that the treaty would have to be significantly modified, so it did not interfere with American rights.
“Various provisions of the ATT, including but not limited to those related to the regulation of imports and trade in conventional arms, require such implementing legislation and relate to matters exclusively reserved to Congress under our Constitution,” he wrote.
Kerry signed the treaty on behalf of the president while he attended the UN’s General Assembly meetings.
“On behalf of President Obama and the United States of America, I am very pleased to have signed this treaty here today. I signed it because President Obama knows that from decades of efforts that at any time that we work with – cooperatively to address the illicit trade in conventional weapons, we make the world a safer place. And this treaty is a significant step in that effort,” the secretary said in remarks at a small reception after the signing.
“I want to be clear both about what this treaty is, but I also want to be clear about what it isn’t. This is about keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue actors,” he said.
Kerry said the treaty would not conflict or restrict Second Amendment rights
“I also want to be clear about what this treaty is not about. This treaty will not diminish anyone’s freedom. In fact, the treaty recognizes the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess, and use arms for legitimate purposes,” he said.
“Make no mistake, we would never think about supporting a treaty that is inconsistent with the rights of Americans, the rights of American citizens, to be able to exercise their guaranteed rights under our constitution,” he said.
“This treaty reaffirms the sovereign right of each country to decide for itself, consistent with its own constitutional and legal requirements, how to deal with the conventional arms that are exclusively used within its borders,” Kerry said.
In his own analysis of the treaty, Michael Hammer, an attorney with Gun Owners of America, said the pact sets up the legal framework for the federal government to not only build a national gun registry, but to also regulate gun ownership.
Quoting from the treaty, Hammer said, “It is inconceivable that, in Obama’s eyes, an ‘effective national control system regulating the transfer of conventional arms’ would not include a universal background check and national gun registry.
Hammer said there are other provisions that are troubling, too.
“The treaty would ban large categories of firearms, including semi-automatics and handguns; require universal gun registration and licensure and require micro-stamping and, through that requirement, effectively ban most guns and ammunition,” he said.
The treaty now must be ratified by the Senate with a two-thirds majority.