Monday, July 16, 2012

A July 6 editorial in The Washington Times, “The U.N. is coming for your guns,” repeats the misleading and factually incorrect claims of the National Rifle Association that the still-to-be-negotiated global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will clash with legal firearms possession in the United States. It won’t.

The domestic regulation of arms is undeniably outside the scope of the treaty, and the Obama administration has stated repeatedly that it will block any infringement on U.S. arms and ownership rights. What is more, the 2009 U.N. General Assembly resolution establishing the ATT negotiation process explicitly acknowledges the exclusive right of states “to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections.”

Concerning the ATT, the State Department has said: “There will be no restrictions on civilian possession or trade of firearms otherwise permitted by law or protected by the U.S. Constitution. There will be no dilution or diminishing of sovereign control over issues involving the private acquisition, ownership, or possession of firearms, which must remain matters of domestic law.”

The goal of the treaty is to create common standards for states’ export or import of weapons and to require national regulations on such international transfers. Without such standards, it is far easier for unscrupulous arms suppliers to sell to terrorists, rebel armies, drug gangs and/or corrupt regimes and far more likely that innocent civilians will be killed in large numbers.

The editorial also frets about setting standards for the transfer of small arms, light weapons and their ammunition across international borders. This ignores the fact that the U.S. government already controls the export and import of small arms, light weapons and their ammunition. It is in the interest of the United States to ensure that other states are required to follow similar practices.

The ATT will level the playing field by making it harder for other states — such as Russia and China — to sell weapons to countries — such as Syria and Sudan — that commit human rights abuses. This is something U.S. laws already guard against. No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose a common-sense international treaty regulating the international arms transfers.


Executive director

Arms Control Association


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