UN Prepares to Finalize Global Arms Trade Treaty: Gun Owners to Take it on the Chin?

On Monday, in New York City, the United Nations kicked off its final round of negotiations on its comprehensive global arms trade treaty agreement.

In preparation for the talks, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his optimism in a statement released last week that all 193 Member State will “overcome their differences and muster the political will needed to agree on this landmark treaty.”

While it’s unclear what the final draft of the ATT will look like, Ban Ki-moon said that he expects it to include regulations on both weapons and ammunition, from “small arms to tanks to combat aircraft.”

“I reiterate my support for an Arms Trade Treaty that regulates international transfers of both weapons and ammunition and provides for common standards for exporting States. These standards are important for assessing the risks that transferred weapons are not used to fuel conflict, arm criminals or abet violations of international humanitarian or human rights law,” said Ban ki-moon.

Ban Ki-moon also noted that this treaty was only the beginning, a launching pad for more expansive regulations down the road.

“Adoption of this treaty will also provide much-needed momentum for wider disarmament and non-proliferation efforts by the international community.”

The renewed push for an ATT certainly has many gun owners and gun rights organizations on edge.  On that front, the NRA is leading the charge to defeat the ATT or to ensure that it doesn’t contain any provisions that would subvert the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.

“What we really object to is the inclusion of civilian firearms within the scope of the ATT,” said Attorney Tom Mason, the NRA’s longtime UN liaison. “This is a treaty that really needs to address the transfer of large numbers of military weapons that leads to human rights abuses. We have submitted language that you can define what a civilian firearm is.”

In other words, it is one thing to regulate bazookas and battle tanks, but keep your hands off commonly owned modern sporting rifles, such as the AR-15.

The NRA also objects to the call for an international registry of gun owners, a notion that was discussed during previous negotiations.

Supporters of the ATT argue that the NRA is off base with their assessment and that they’re only ratcheting up fear to bring in more bucks from members.  Additionally, they contend that for an ATT to be impactful, it must regulate all weapons and not just military arms.

“The NRA claim that there is such a thing as ‘civilian weapons’ and that these can and need to be treated differently from military weapons under the Arms Trade Treaty is — to put it politely — the gun lobby’s creativity on full display,” Michelle Ringuette of Amnesty International told the Washington Post.

“There is no such distinction,” she continued. “To try to create one would create a loophole that would render the treaty inoperative, as anyone could claim that he or she was in the business of trading ‘civilian weapons.’”

Prior to the election, the Obama administration only tepidly endorsed the ATT.  When talks broke down in July, many cited the November elections as the reason, i.e. Obama refused to put his full weight behind the ATT because he didn’t want to rock the boat too much heading into election season.  With the US sending mixed signals, major players like China and Russia backed away from the table.

Now, however, it appears that the White House is more committed to seeing a deal get done.  Obama, after all, is not running for re-election in 2016.

In a statement released on Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “The United States is steadfast in its commitment to achieve a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty that helps address the adverse effects of the international arms trade on global peace and stability.”

He added, “We will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment.”

Though, given the White House’s latest push for gun control reform in the wake of Sandy Hook, one wonders whether the Obama administration would really view an international registry or regulations on civilian arms as being “inconsistent” with the Constitution.  In all probability, Obama would likely embrace those measures as being “reasonable” or label them “common-sense.”

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