- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2001

NEW YORK U.S. negotiators are seeking changes in a proposed U.N. agreement that could severely curtail U.S. arms sales abroad and cut deeply into Americans' Second Amendment rights to own firearms.
The proposal, to be finalized at a U.N. conference in New York in July, would ban the export of many small arms and light weapons to rebels and resistance groups, which could, according to U.S. officials, be defined to include Taiwan.
"You can have good and bad nonstate actors," one U.S. official said yesterday at the end of a two-week negotiating session.
"Would you want to keep weapons from the French Resistance in World War II? You wouldn't be able sell weapons to them … or any resistance group [opposing] genocide."
Scores of nations are negotiating the language of an international agreement that seeks to curb the flood of small arms and light weapons into conflict zones around the world.
A working definition of proscribed weapons adopted in 1997 includes: rifles and carbines; assault rifles, revolvers and self-loading pistols; light machine-guns; and portable missile launchers.
Most nations appear to accept the existing definition of "illicit small arms and light weapons."
However, the U.S. delegation has submitted a more focused definition designed to have a minimal impact on weapons commonly owned by American civilians.
Hunting enthusiasts, sport shooters and gun manufacturers fear the agreement, as it now stands, could prohibit civilian ownership of popular hunting rifles under brand names such as Remington and Winchester.
"The problem here is that almost all hunting rifles are of military design. The current definition covers just about every hunting rifle in the world," said Tom Mason, the U.N. lobbyist for the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities. The forum is a coalition of 30 groups, including the National Rifle Association and several American and European firearms manufacturers.
"Under this proposal, civilian possession would be banned," said Mr. Mason.
Mr. Mason said the U.S. delegation is seeking language in the agreement that "is an attempt to distinguish between the commonly owned Remington 700 or Winchester 70 and an AK-47."
U.S. officials, who are familiar with the U.N. proceedings but declined to be quoted by name, said the threat to hunters and sport shooters is not as great as Mr. Mason portrays.
"There are many different views of what the definition should be," said one U.S. official. "We have tried to make the definition apply to the guns that are killing people in conflicts."
They also say that legitimate domestic possession is outside the conference's mandate to look into illicit weapons.
The New York accord, to be completed July 9-20, is not legally binding.
If a nation does not accept the final agreement, it can block consensus, or simply register objections to specific passages.
The agreement is meant to stem the illegal trafficking in small arms, which are easily transported, concealed and used.
Handguns, rifles and grenades are the primary weapons used in internal conflicts from Asia to Africa.
The European Union, Japan and the Nordic states are generally the most enthusiastic about strong measures on global gun control.
Predictably, there was also finger-pointing between developing and industrialized countries over the need to curb supply or demand.
The U.S. delegation is also hoping to beef up language regarding the illicit brokering of weapons.
"Third-party transfers are a major source of the diversion of legal arms into the illegal market," said Donald McConnell, the head of the U.S. delegation.
He said that exporting countries must oversee the ultimate destination of their weapons and demand the authority to approve any transfers to other parties.


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