- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2001

The United Nations just concluded a conference on small arms. This conference never should have taken place; but thank goodness it took place under President Bush rather than President Clinton.
In recent weeks, the Bush administration has demonstrated a clear and welcome break from the eroding disrespect shown the Constitution during the Clinton administration. Through a series of statements and policy decisions, and in the face of left-wing criticism from the national media and international community, the new administration has stood in strong defense of law-abiding Americans' Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The new respect for and loyalty to our constitutional freedoms by President Bush comes at an important time; a time when strong leadership is needed to defend the Second Amendment against increasing attacks by the left.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the U.N. Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons, as an observer member of the U.S. delegation. The disdain which many in the international community held for America's constitutional freedoms was evident immediately. Proposals under consideration at the outset of this conference and the speeches that accompanied them sought an internationally enforced system of gun registration, the limitation of personal firearms ownership in member countries, including the United States, and an unprecedented level of power over the way America would be allowed to conduct its foreign affairs.
I firmly believe if this conference had been held just one year ago, the Second Amendment would have been subverted and the U.S. delegation would have caved, in favor of international appeasement or to curry favor with our erstwhile allies intent on diminishing freedom in their countries and whose leaders resent the freedoms enjoyed by our citizens.
Fortunately, to the surprise of many in the international community, who for the last eight years had come to expect appeasement over principle by the United States, the U.S. delegation, led by Undersecretary of State John Bolton, stood firm; refusing to bend America's constitutional principles to further the U.N.'s anti-gun agenda.
The Bush administration told the United Nations it shared the important goal of limiting violence in Third World nations, but instead of infringing on our Constitution, it would be better served encouraging these countries to adopt the same strong export controls already employed by the United States. Rather than working with us on this important, common-sense goal, the international delegates instead reacted with astonishment as to why the U.S. did not recognize, "the need to establish and retain controls on private ownership of these deadly weapons, and the need for preventing sales of such arms to non-state groups." I say to them it is because we finally have an administration that follows principle, rather than appeasement; an administration committed to a representative government, and national freedom, not a one-world government.
The repair needed to restore our Second Amendment principles is extensive, and it is a fight far from over; but thus far it has been met with a consistent and principled commitment by the Bush administration. The Justice Department, led by Attorney General John Ashcroft, recently reasserted a very basic, common-sense principle that all law-abiding citizens have the right to keep and bear arms; a principle dismissed by the Clinton-Reno Justice Department. Attorney General Ashcroft also broke from Miss Reno in supporting our right to privacy, by moving to destroy the personal records of lawful gun owners after they passed an instant background check. The House of Representatives recently supported this measure, by rejecting a proposal by Democrats to retain personal records on file in government offices for up to 90 days, after it is determined a citizen is not disqualified from purchasing a firearm.
These small, but very important measures should not go unnoticed by those who cherish our constitutional principles. The strong defense of the Second Amendment by the Bush administration is a stark contrast from the last eight years of the Clinton presidency. I commend President Bush and those in his administration for standing firm and hope this principled commitment continues in the coming years. The alternative is to relinquish our constitutional rights to delegates at the United Nations; sacrificing principle over appeasement.
While the document adopted at the U.N. Small Arms Conference should never have come up in the first place, at least it did so during the Bush presidency. Our task now is to keep sufficient light shining on the U.N. to ensure its future actions do not move us backward.

Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the House Financial Services, Judiciary, and Government Reform Committees, and is a former federal prosecutor.

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