As the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois, one of the first moves by Barack Obama was to head to Ukraine to urge the country to destroy its arms.
Elected in November 2004 to the seat held by U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, Obama's banner freshman effort on Capitol Hill was to expand the Nunn – Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction concept – a disarmament program that destroyed Ukraine's 1,240 nuclear warheads – to include conventional weapons like artillery, small arms, and tanks. As part of the move, Obama traveled to Eastern Europe just eight months after taking office, accompanying U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar to meet with Ukrainian officials about destroying their guns with America picking up the tab.
Lugar and Obama, while on the trip, called for the "immediate destruction of 15,000 tons of ammunition, 400,000 small arms and light weapons, and 1,000 man-portable air defense systems," saying that to do so would take the guns off the potential global market and keep them from being used in future conflicts.
"Vast stocks of conventional munitions and military supplies have accumulated in Ukraine. Some of this stockpile dates from World War I and II, yet most dates from Cold War buildup and the stocks left behind by Soviet withdrawals from East Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungry and Poland," Obama said at the time. "We need to eliminate these stockpiles for the safety of the Ukrainian people and people around world, by keeping them out of conflicts around the world."
The ultimate Lugar-Obama proliferation and threat reduction initiative was signed into law in 2007, proffering $36 million in taxpayer funding for "programs to destroy heavy conventional weapons."
In 2013, Obama, while president, awarded Lugar the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his disarmament efforts.
American 2A Groups Urge Support for Ukrainian Gun Owners
"The whole world is watching, but gun owners around the world can actually be helping,” Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, said in an email Sunday to Guns.com. "We’re calling on our fellow gun owners and rights activists to support Zbroya, the Ukranian Gun Owners Association (UGOA)."
UGOA is a member organization of the International Association for the Protection of Civilian Arms Rights, which SAF spearheaded and helped organize more than a decade ago. Now, more than ever, gun owners in Ukraine are in dire need of support, because civilian arms rights has never been more important in that nation.
"Our brother and sister gun owners in the Ukraine are fighting for their lives,” Gottlieb said, “and now is the time for gun owners across the country and around the world to step up and help them in their hour of need."
Gottlieb last week, as Ukraine was being invaded by Russian troops and irregulars, stressed the importance of civilian arms rights.
Banner image: President Barack Obama laughs during a meeting in the Oval Office, Jan. 24, 2011, via the U.S. National Archives.