LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Signing arms treaty would bind U.S.

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Thomas Howell Jr.’s article “Gun groups promise fight as U.N. inches toward override of Second Amendment” (Web, Thursday) was informative but missing a key point: the Obama administration’s strategy to circumvent Congress. The administration has stated it would sign a treaty on international arms sales if the agreement were a consensus document. “Consensus” does not mean universal agreement, but that no participant has substantive objections to any of the provisions.

A bit of creative vagueness in drafting can resolve objectionable provisions, enabling each nation to apply its own interpretation. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties states, “The consent of a State to be bound by a treaty is expressed by the signature of its representative.” President Obama may authorize signature of the treaty by his designated representative without congressional approval. Once signed, a government is obligated “to refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty,” thereby binding the United States to the treaty without Senate advice or consent to ratification.

Finally, Mr. Howell’s article quotes anti-gun rights activist Darryl Kimball as stating the treaty would not prohibit “hunting rifles.” Thus, through U.S. signature of the treaty, anti-gun groups could achieve the ban on so-called assault rifles sought by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, but not supported by Congress.


Lorton, Va.

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