The U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday approved a sweeping, first-of-its-kind treaty aimed at regulating the estimated $60 billion international arms trade, brushing aside gun rights groups’ concerns that the pact could lead to a national firearms registry in the U.S.
The long-debated U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) requires countries to regulate and control the export of weaponry such as battle tanks, combat vehicles and aircraft and attack helicopters, as well as parts and ammunition for such weapons.
The treaty also provides that signatories will not violate arms embargoes or international treaties regarding illicit trafficking, or sell weaponry to countries where they could be used for genocide, crimes against humanity or other war crimes.
U.S. gun rights activists say the treaty is riddled with loopholes and is unworkable in part because it includes “small arms and light weapons” in its list of weaponry subject to international regulations. The activists said they do not trust U.N. assertions that the pact is meant to regulate only cross-border trade and would have no impact on domestic U.S. laws and markets.
One provision requires participating countries to keep records of arms exports and imports, including the quantity, value, model/type, and “end users, as appropriate” for at least 10 years.
Gun record-keeping is a thorny issue in the U.S., where similar questions have stalled a debate over expanding background checks to include all private gun sales.
Second Amendment supporters worry that such records eventually will pave the way for a national firearms registry, currently prohibited by federal law.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote a letter to President Obama on Tuesday saying he would sue to block the treaty if it is ratified. It “appears to lay the groundwork for an international gun registry overseen by the bureaucrats at the UN,” the letter said.
The Senate last month also signaled its aversion, voting 53-46 to oppose the treaty in a nonbinding test vote as part of the budget debate. Eight Democrats joined all 45 Republicans in opposing the treaty.
“The U.S. Senate is united in strong opposition to a treaty that puts us on level ground with dictatorships who abuse human rights and arm terrorists, but there is real concern that the administration feels pressured to sign a treaty that violates our constitutional rights,” Mr. Moran said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that the White House was pleased with the outcome, but “as is the case with all treaties of this nature, we will follow normal procedures to conduct a thorough review of the treaty text to determine whether to sign the treaty.”
Amnesty International and the Arms Control Association hailed the U.N. vote.