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Obama Administration Defies Will of Congress, Signs UN Arms Trade Treaty

November 1, 2013

On Sept. 22, President Obama turned a memorial service for the victims of the  tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard into a platform to call for a  “transformation” of federal gun laws. For his remarks, the president found  inspiration for such a transformation in the example set by foreign nations. The president admonished his  fellow Americans that gun violence “ought to obsess us” and invoked the United  Kingdom and Australia as modeling the correct paradigm. After “just a single  mass shooting occurred in those countries,” he said, “they … mobilized and they  changed ….”

The extent to which the president seeks international direction for American  gun control became even more apparent three days later, when  Secretary of State John Kerry, on behalf of the Obama administration, signed the  United Nations Arms Trade Treaty despite the objections of  the U.S. Congress. At the signing, Secretary Kerry remarked, “The United States  is proud to have worked with our international partners in order to achieve this  important step towards a … more peaceful world, but a world that also lives by  international standards and rules.”

The broad and ambiguous language of the ATT poses a significant threat to  U.S. gun owners. While it purports to focus on international trade in such items  as “[b]attle tanks,” “[c]ombat aircraft” and “[w]arships,” its inclusion of  small arms and light weapons is universally understood to encompass ordinary  firearms.  This is underscored by the treaty’s non-binding, preambular  reference to “the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain  conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting  activities, where such trade, ownership, and use are permitted or protected by  law.” Battle tanks and warships, needless to say, are rarely used for  recreational or sporting activities.

Among many other measures, the treaty establishes factors a participating  country would have to consider before authorizing an export of arms to another  country, including whether the exported arms would contribute to or undermine  peace and security.  To mitigate these supposed risks, the exporting state  could extract “confidence building measures” from the importing state. To  accomplish this, each importing country must ensure that relevant information is  provided to the exporting country, including end use or end user  documentation.

In other words, even if the Senate never ratifies the treaty, the United  States could be required, as a condition of receiving firearms exported from a  participating nation, to hand over lists of individual end users of such  guns.  Thus, the stage is set for the United States either to be ostracized  as an outlier in the global gun control community or to establish a national  registry of firearms imported from other countries, as well as the Americans who  own them.

A further threat is posed by the International Small Arms Control Standards  (ISACS) Module 03.30, produced as part of the U.N.’s efforts to get countries to  “voluntarily” adopt gun control. The standards endorsed are similar to the gun  controls now in place in Australia and the UK. While not formally part of the  ATT, eventually the ISACS 03.30 standards could be considered best practices to  implement the treaty, and the U.S. could face international pressure to  incorporate these recommendations into its own law and practices.

Fortunately, strong opposition to the ATT has come from both sides of the  aisle in Congress. On October 15,  two letters were sent by 50  U.S. Senators and 181  members of the U.S. House, clearly stating Congress’ opposition to the  treaty. The Senate letter, led by Jerry Moran (R-Kans.) and Joe Manchin  (D-W.V.), concluded by stating that “we pledge to oppose the ratification of  this treaty, and we give notice that we do not regard the U.S. as bound to  uphold its object and purpose.”  Following these two letters, on October 22  an additional  letter of opposition was sent to the president by four Democratic  senators—Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Max Baucus, D-Mont., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and  Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.—stating that “because of unaddressed concerns that this  Treaty’s obligations could undermine our nation’s sovereignty and the Second  Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans, we would oppose the Treaty if it were  to come before the U.S. Senate.”

To ensure continued opposition in the Congress to this ongoing threat, we  urge you to contact your senators and representative to express your firm  opposition to this treaty and thank those members who have stood on the side of  freedom. You can contact your Senators by phone at (202) 224-3121, and your  Representative by phone at (202) 225-3121.

CREDIT TO:  Chris Cox / Guns and Ammo

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