This month, a UN committee wrapped up a week-long series of meetings on a massive treaty that could undermine both U.S. sovereignty and the Second Amendment. This is the third round of meetings by the so-called “preparatory committee” on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) as the UN gears up for final negotiations in 2012.
The most comprehensive treaty of its kind, the ATT would regulate weapons trade throughout the world on everything from battleships to bullets.
And as information trickles out of New York’s Turtle Bay, it is obvious the UN is getting more clever about taking the focus off of “small arms.”
With an eye cast in the direction of the U.S.—in particular, toward the U.S. Senate which must ratify the treaty—the most recent Draft Paper for the Arms Trade Treaty recognizes in its preamble “the sovereign right of States to determine any regulation of internal transfers of arms and national ownership exclusively within their territory, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership.”
That statement, taken by itself, is troubling. Americans’ right to keep and bear arms exists whether or not it is “recognized” by some UN committee. The right enshrined in the Second Amendment predates our own Constitution, and does not need an international stamp of approval.
But the preamble aside, the scope of the treaty is what’s most damaging. Though negotiations will continue for another year, some provisions are certain to be contained in the final draft.
The ATT will, at the very least, require gun owner registration and microstamping of ammunition. And it will define manufacturing so broadly that any gun owner who adds so much as a scope or changes a stock on a firearm would be required to obtain a manufacturing license.
It would also likely include a ban on many semi-automatic firearms (i.e., the Clinton gun ban) and demand the mandatory destruction of surplus ammo and confiscated firearms.
Any suggestion that the treaty might not impact all firearms—right down to common hunting rifles—was thrown out the window after seeing the reaction to the Canadian government’s motion that hunting rifles be exempted from the treaty.
The Canadian representative caused a stir among the other delegates this week when he proposed that the treaty include the following language: “Reaffirming that small arms have certain legitimate civilian uses, including sporting, hunting, and collecting purposes.”
While Canadian gun owners were pleased with even the slightest movement by its government to protect gun rights, the proposed language is yet another indication that ALL firearms are “on the table.”
Feeble as it is, Canadian proposal was viewed as a major wrench thrown in the works, and had the anti-gunners crying foul.
Kenneth Epps is a representative with the Canadian anti-gun group known as Project Plowshares. According to Postmedia News, Epps said Canada’s move is hampering efforts to forge a comprehensive global arms control regime.
Noting that there is little difference between a sniper rifle and a hunting rifle, Epps said, “The problem is that once you introduce exemptions, others will do the same. It’s the thin edge of the wedge….From a humanitarian perspective, all firearms need to be controlled, and that’s the bottom line.”
Such statements are eagerly welcomed by the Obama administration. Since it has been largely stymied in pushing gun control in Congress, U.S. negotiators will push the envelope as far as they can.
The U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, a key negotiator of the ATT, is anti-gun former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of California. Tauscher said last year that her team at the State Department “will work between now and the UN Conference in 2012 to negotiate a legally binding Arms Trade Treaty.”
In 2009, newly confirmed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reversed the position of the Bush administration (which voted against the treaty in 2008) and stated that “The United States is prepared to work hard for a strong international standard in this area.”
International standards, however, may not be the only, or even the primary, objective. Former ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, observes that, “The hidden agenda of a lot of the people who sought to negotiate a small arms treaty really had less to do with reducing dangers internationally and a lot more to do with creating a framework for gun control statutes at the national level.”
Bolton explains that pressure from the groups agitating for the treaty—groups such as Amnesty International, Oxfam, and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA)—is geared toward constraining the freedoms of countries that recognize gun rights. “And specifically, and most importantly, [to] constrain the United States,” Bolton said.
Negotiators, from abroad and within the Obama administration, view arms control as protecting human rights, rather than seeing civilian disarmament for what it is—the favorite tool of despots, dictators and tyrants to maintain power by engaging in mass murder and genocide.
And, perversely, in many instances those resisting an oppressive, genocidal regime would be held in the same light as criminals and terrorists and be legally prohibited under the ATT from purchasing weapons.
U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) makes this point in a letter he drafted to President Obama: “[T]he underlying philosophy of the Arms Trade Treaty is that transfers to and from governments are presumptively legal, while transfers to non-state actors…are, at best, problematic.”
Sen. Moran’s letter, in which he is joined by other pro-gun Senators, warned that any treaty “that seeks in any way to regulate the domestic manufacture, assembly, possession, transfer, or purchase of firearms, ammunition, and related items would be completely unacceptable to us.”
U.S. freedom is clearly in the sights of the ATT. The time to take action is now, before the treaty moves into final negotiations.
Concerned gun owners should contact their own Senators to be sure they oppose any UN effort to impose restrictions on the Second Amendment, and to sign on to Sen. Moran’s letter to President Obama in opposition to the ATT.