As is often the case when gun control laws are proposed, the rumor mill quickly churns out hyperbolic misinformation at the speed of light. Such has certainly been the case with regard to the looming United Nations global Arms Trade Treaty. A number of publications, politicians, and media outlets have openly criticized the proposed treaty, casting it as an attempt by anti-gun lawmakers to confiscate American’s guns and trod on their Second Amendment rights.
The climate of anxiety surrounding the proposed treaty further heightened when, on October 14th of 2009, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton released a statement pledging U.S. support for treaty negotiations. This change in course reversed the previous stance taken up by President George Bush’s administration, which asserted that U.S. domestic controls over firearms would be more effective than an internationally standardized measure.
Clinton promised cooperation on behalf of the U.S. so long as international negotiations occur “under the rule of consensus decision-making needed to ensure that all countries can be held to standards that will actually improve the global situation.” Clinton also stressed the need for every nation to retain an effective veto on agreements, articulating the importance of avoiding “loopholes in the treaty that can be directly exploited by those wishing to export arms irresponsibly.”
In the wake of the Obama administration’s announcement, a number of gun lobbies, politicians, and organizations began frantically sounding the alarm, fearing that the administration’s political maneuvering represented a roundabout attempt to regulate domestic arms by entering into binding international agreements. Many who had suspected Barack Obama of harboring an anti-gun agenda pointed to the move as the first in many maneuvers to erode the Second Amendment rights of Americans.
But the facts in the case do not logically lead to the aforementioned conclusion. First and foremost, Barack Obama has done little in the way of gun-control. Although a look through his political history will reveal a handful of instances in which he supported gun control measures, his position on gun control and the Second Amendment at large has been calculated, careful, and moderate. He has repeatedly stressed the need to take guns out of the hands of criminals and gang members on America’s city streets, but has also acknowledged the need to respect the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens.
Secondly, the proposed U.N. treaty is just that: proposed. In fact, the United States and other nations agreed to nothing more than a series of discussions in an attempt to draft an accord that will address the needs of the global community. The U.S. has not agreed to any binding measures, but has simply pledged to enter into the debate. A series of U.N. conferences and forums dealing with a proposed global arms treaty are scheduled, and will culminate in a 2012 conference the aim of which is to draft an agreement based on consensus.
Although many have pointed to the proverbial slippery slope, even the National Rifle Association – an organization that, to put it diplomatically, errs mightily on the side of caution when it comes to proposed gun control – has seemingly hedged its bets for the time being. After initially releasing a statement warning of the coming arms treaty and promising to monitor events in the debate, the NRA seems to have momentarily struck a wait-and-see tenor. In fact, the NRA website currently states:
As we noted in an update from last November, the UN Arms Trade Treaty will be drafted between now and 2012, and even if signed, would not take effect in the U.S. until it was ratified by the Senate.
Please rest assured that, as we said in November, NRA will be actively involved in this process and will oppose any treaty that would attempt to impose limits on our Second Amendment rights. In the meantime, we urge gun owners to follow this issue in NRA’s magazines and NRA-ILA’s Grassroots Alerts. We also urge gun owners not to circulate misinformation on this issue.
The NRA, a group that fiercely defends any perceived attempt to subvert the Second Amendment, has pledged to oppose any such measure in the case of a global arms treaty. Indeed, NRA President Wayne Lapierre even wrote a book entitled “The Global War on Your Guns.” But the NRA has also wisely acknowledged that any international gun control maneuver is purely speculative at this point. In fact, no written draft currently exists. There is little evidence to support the notion that a liberal administration is attempting to regulate domestic gun control through international treaty.
In fact, the United States has regularly found itself at odds with UN rulings, and has at times ignored or outright abrogated the U.N.’s authority. In truth, the United Nations has little regulatory authority over the U.S. In fact the U.S. has regularly withheld UN dues and other U.N. funding. Furthermore, even though no arms treaty draft even exists at this time, two-thirds of the U.S. Senate would have to ratify any binding agreement. Given the current polarized climate of American congressional politics, any such consensus would represent a modest miracle.
Furthermore, the looming run-up to a 2012 election, coupled with Republican legislative majorities, means that President Barack Obama will likely spend more time playing defense and defending current policy than he will lobbying for new legislation.
In any case, gun enthusiasts may do well to adopt a wait-and-see mentality for the time being. Any United Nations debate or activity is widely available through the UN website as well as numerous media outlets. Furthermore, watchdog groups, lobbyists, and Second Amendment groups like the NRA are sure to keep their constituencies updated. But those worried that the UN is coming to confiscate American guns should remember that the debate surrounding an international arms treaty – one that would ultimately influence190-plus nations – will be hard-fought, thoughtfully debated, widely reported, and ultimately implemented only with a two-thirds ratifying vote from the U.S. Senate.