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Gun groups promise fight as U.N. inches toward override of Second Amendment
American gun rights advocates said Thursday that they remain determined to block a far-reaching U.S. agreement on international arms sales, warning that the pact could lead to a national firearms registry and disrupt the U.S. gun market, even as the accord ran into an unexpected last-minute snag in negotiations in New York.
Objections from North Korea, Syria and Iran prevented negotiators from clinching a deal by acclamation on the proposed U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, although diplomats and private advocacy groups say they still anticipate an overwhelming positive vote when the world body's General Assembly votes on the agreement next week.
But American gun rights activists insist the treaty is riddled with loopholes and is unworkable because it includes "small arms and light weapons" alongside battle tanks and combat aircraft in its list of weaponry subject to international regulations. 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.
"Our main concern is that civilian firearms are included in the scope of this treaty," said Thomas Mason, executive secretary for the Americas at the World Forum on Shooting Activities, which counts the National Rifle Association as a member and opposes the U.N. treaty.
Mr. Mason said the treaty has the potential to disrupt the market for imported firearms that accounts for a chunk of U.S. gun sales. He said language that calls for national control lists could be "bootstrapped" into a kind of gun registry, a concept that pro-gun advocates have decried during the debate over gun legislation in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings in December.
The Senate objects
Critics of the treaty were heartened by the Senate's resistance to ratifying the document, assuming President Obama sent it to the chamber for ratification. In its budget debate last weekend, the Senate approved a nonbinding amendment opposing the treaty offered by Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, with eight Democrats joining all 45 Republicans backing the amendment.
"The Senate has already gone on record in stating that an Arms Trade Treaty has no hope, especially if it does not specifically protect the individual right to bear arms and American sovereignty," Sen. Thad Cochran, a Mississippi Republican who backed Mr. Inhofe's motion, said in a statement this week. "It would be pointless for the president to sign such a treaty and expect the Senate to go along. We won't ratify it.
"Treaty supporters say a deal is needed to bring order to massive cross-border arms flows, in part to deny firepower to governments that commit human rights violations, face international sanctions or are allied with terrorist groups. In addition to heavy military hardware such as battle tanks and attack helicopters, the accord also will govern international trade in small arms and light weapons ranging from assault rifles to handguns.
Some activists say the draft treaty produced by U.N. negotiators did not go far enough."We need a treaty that covers all conventional weapons, not just some of them," Anna Macdonald, head of arms control for the international human rights group Oxfam, told The Associated Press. "We need a treaty that will make a difference to the lives of the people living in Congo, Mali, Syria and elsewhere who suffer each day from the impacts of armed violence."
Pressure to sign on
Despite the Senate vote, numerous groups have pressured Mr. Obama to support the treaty. Amnesty International staged a rally in front of the White House to highlight the number of innocent people around the world who have been killed by trafficked weapons.
Darryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the NRA and other gun rights advocacy groups have distorted the meaning of the treaty. He said it is about the global trade of dangerous weapons, not individual rights within the United States.
"It does not affect, in any way whatsoever, the ability of an individual American to go down to Kmart and purchase a hunting rifle," he said. "This is not about what one person in Colorado might sell to a person in Wyoming."
The American Bar Association also released a white paper that concluded the treaty would not affect Second Amendment rights.
But negotiations leading up to the first-of-its-kind agreement in New York have been rocky at best, even before the objections from Iran and North Korea scuttled hopes for a quick conclusion Thursday.
Efforts to affirm the treaty got off to an inauspicious start, when the session was delayed for about an hour to sort out crowding in the room.
Ambassador Peter Woolcott of Australia later suspended the meeting amid objections, including a complaint from the Iranian ambassador that the treaty was "susceptible to politicization and discrimination" and did not allow nations to adequately defend against aggression.
Although the treaty needed the support of all 193 member nations, Mexico later suggested that the conference adopt it despite the objections of Iran, Syria and North Korea — all of which are under some degree of U.N. sanction. Russia prevented that, saying such a maneuver would be "a manipulation of consensus."
The treaty now will go before the General Assembly, where it is expected to win overwhelming approval. This article is based in part on wire service reports.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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