A controversial new international treaty would create a global equivalent of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and, critics say, violate the Second Amendment.
Not surprisingly, the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which is supported by the Obama administration and went into effect on December 24, has generated plenty of opposition. It has yet to be ratified by the Senate.
“This treaty threatens individual firearm ownership with an invasive registration scheme,” said Chris W. Cox, the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action at the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Supporters of the treaty say it is designed to keep military-style weapons out of the hands of warlords and terrorists. But the NRA says it also covers small arms and light weapons such as pistols and rifles.
“Treaty advocates seek to incorporate the ATT into other U.N. activities that are explicitly designed to promote civilian gun control,” Theodore R. Bromund, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, alleged.
The NRA says the treaty “urges recordkeeping of end users, directing importing countries to provide information to an exporting country regarding arms transfers, including ‘end use or end user documentation’ for a ‘minimum of ten years.’”
“Data kept on the end users of imported firearms is a de-facto registry of law-abiding firearms owners, which is a violation of federal law,” the NRA said. “Even worse, the ATT could be construed to require such a registry to be made available to foreign governments.”
The treaty is unlikely to have any immediate effect on Americans even though Secretary of State John Kerry signed it on Sept. 25, 2013. The New Republic reported that 50 senators from both parties are on record opposing it. That number will probably increase when Republicans take over the Senate this month. A super-majority of votes – 67 – are needed to ratify treaties.
What the ATT Supposedly Would Do
The ATT has been signed by 130 countries and ratified by 61 after being adopted by the UN General Assembly, 154-3.
The treaty supposedly would:
- Require all nations to adopt tough standards to make it illegal to sell weapons to organizations or nations that violate human rights or break international law. The US already has such standards in place.
- Set up an ATT Secretariat run by the UN which would enforce the treaty. The Secretariat would function as a sort of global ATF. Critics such as Bromund think this body could be a threat to US sovereignty. “Such a Secretariat, among other activities, would be authorized to conduct on-site inspections inside member nations, potentially including the U.S. This is unacceptable,” Bromund wrote in a recent issue brief. “The U.S. should oppose all but the most minimal Secretariat.”
- Require national governments to track all arms shipments and sales and report that information to the ATT Secretariat.
- Require signatory nations to attend a congress of nations that will set up the Secretariat. Bromund is concerned about the congress because it will set policy by a majority vote, and the US would have only one vote in the body
But even if the US doesn’t ratify it, there are fears it will still be enforced within the US.
“Treaty advocates are beginning to claim that once the ATT enters into force, it will be international law” Bromund wrote. “By this, they imply that it will be binding on the U.S., regardless of the fact that the Senate has not ratified it.”
Four of the world’s largest manufacturers and exporters of arms — China, India, Pakistan and Russia — have refused to sign it.
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