The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty
By: John Hampton
The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was placed on hold last Friday as the United States, Russia and China all announced that more time was needed. It was expected that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was prepared to sign the treaty on Friday July 27. However, that decision was changed in the waning hours of the negotiations.
It was back in December 2006, that the U.N. General Assembly voted to go to work on a treaty aimed at regulating arms trade. Under President Bush, the United States did not give its support to this idea. But toward the end of 2009, Mr. Obama did support the resolution to hold preparatory meetings and a U.N. conference in 2012 to draft the arms treaty.
The stated goal of the treaty is to regulate the global arms trade business – a business estimated to be worth $60 billion. Proponents of the treaty say it would have severely restricted the international trade of weapons and ammunition that have perpetuated armed conflicts and mass murder around the world.
Sounds noble on the surface, as no one can argue that guns in the hands of evil people will invariably lead to mass murder and tremendous suffering. But opponents, at least those in the U.S., say that the ultimate goal of the ATT is regulation of small arms owned by individuals and the concomitant dismantling of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
Bullet point 14 in the preamble to the ATT states that: Recognizing the legitimate international trade and lawful private ownership and use of conventional arms exclusively for, inter alia, recreational, cultural, historical and sporting activities for States where such ownership and use are permitted or protected by law. This narrative would seem to protect lawful private ownership, and thus the Second Amendment – wouldn’t it?
In Joseph Klein’s article on frontpagemag.com, he writes that preambles have no binding legal effect in a treaty or a contract. Thus, the disclaimer is legally meaningless. What counts are the operative provisions within the body of the document. The proposed treaty language does not clearly define its jurisdictional limitation to covering only exports and imports between and among the member states. It could be interpreted as requiring regulation and control of the domestic possession and sale of firearms if there is any chance, no matter how remote, that such firearms could be, in the words of the draft text, “diverted” to “unauthorized end users.”
Article 2, paragraph 1, section h, clearly indicates that small arms and light weapons fall under the purview of the ATT. And furthermore, Article 2 paragraph 4 states that: Each State Party shall establish or update, as appropriate, and maintain a national control list that shall include the items that fall within Paragraph 1, as defined on a national basis, based on relevant U.N. instruments at a minimum. Each State Party shall publish its control list to the extent permitted by national law.
That sounds like a roundabout way of saying that each State Party (signatory to the treaty) would also be required to ensure that all small arms and light weapons are accounted for. How else but registration and subsequent inventory could this be done? Once the U.N. has an accurate count of the number and type of weapons held by U.S. citizens, it can take whatever legislative action is necessary to facilitate prohibition of these weapons. And Congress would be powerless to stop it.
I do not oppose implementing measures that make it more difficult for terrorist groups, thugs and miscreants to obtain weapons with which they will wreak havoc. However, the United States should not be required to prostrate itself before the U.N. or any other group or country in order to accomplish this. If President Obama feels that this is sound policy, then that is one more reason he should not be reelected.
We may not always show it, but we are still a Constitutional Republic. We live under American law. We are responsible to American authority. We are the leaders of the free world – we are inferior to no entity. Our leaders should not be consulting with foreign powers prior to determining what policies and decisions are best suited for the American people. And our politicians must be made to understand that they cannot continue to give away our liberty and our freedom to placate those who do not share in the idea of American Exceptionalism.
Of course, there are some who blame the U.S. for the failure of the month long negotiating session. I certainly do not consider this outcome a failure. As mentioned above, Russia and China also asked for additional time before signing the treaty. It is not likely either will be criticized, but this is to be expected. Whether intentional or not, the Obama administration has tacitly defended the Second Amendment by its refusal to sign the ATT. For this I am thankful. It may very well be temporary, but at least for now, this part of our Constitution remains intact.
John Hampton lives in Tehachapi CA and is quite concerned about the policies and motives of the current Administration. He believes in a system that holds our freedoms sacred, promotes personal responsibility, prudence and high moral standards.