Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there was not enough support to give Sen. Dianne Feinstein the stand-alone vote she demands on the “assault weapon” ban, but the upper chamber may soon be the deciding factor in whether the United States ratifies an international treaty that could strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights.
On Monday, the United States joined in the nine day conference in New York to finalize negotiations of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The treaty is intended to regulate the global trade of conventional weapons, but depending how the final document is worded, it could put at risk Americans’ right to keep and bear arms.
The countries were negotiating the draft last July, but stopped when the U.S. asked for a delay. Many believe Mr. Obama pushed the issue past Election Day in order not to further alienate gun owners. Now that he has more “flexibility” in his second term, the U.S. is back at the table.
Secretary of State John Kerry has encouraged reaching consensus by March 28. “The United States is steadfast in its commitment to achieve a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty that helps address the adverse effects of the international arms trade on global peace and stability,” he wrote in a statement Friday.
Mr. Kerry only modified his enthusiasm with a nod to public disapproval by stating that, “We will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) strongly opposes the treaty because the draft includes civilian firearms under what is called the “scope” provision of the draft. NRA representatives in New York are finding strong resistance from non-government organizations and leftist states to removing the civilian firearm provision.
“The U.N. treaty draft under consideration in New York this week could be vastly improved by exempting civilian owned firearms — as has been suggested and rejected from the beginning of the negotiations,” NRA President David Keene told me. “Such an exemption would satisfy U.S. gun owners, but the sad fact is that the treaty as written probably cannot be fixed.”
Mr. Keene concluded that, “It is in the U.S. national interest to oppose it — on a whole host of grounds that should concern every American — not just those of us dedicated to protecting Second Amendment rights.”
There are other major problems with the current treaty draft. The U.S. opposes including ammunition in the export regulations because it is totally impractical to try to control billions or rounds that circle the world each day. Also, Mexico is trying to get what is called “diversion” — which is code for blaming the U.S. for its drug problems — and chairing a working group on this issue.
There are just a few days left for the Obama administration to realize that just taking out the regulation of citizens’ own guns would make this treaty palatable. It seems unlikely to do so.
In that case, Mr. Obama will likely go ahead and sign the treaty as it is. Then the only thing standing in the way of the U.N. stripping Americans of their Second Amendment rights is if he can get two-thirds of the Senate to ratify.
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Emily Miller is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times. She won the 2012 Clark Mollenhoff Award for Investigative Reporting from the Institute on Political Journalism.
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