Last month, on April 2, 2013 the United Nations General Assembly voted 153-4 to pass the Arms Trade Treaty, with the United States voting in favor and several countries abstaining. The vote in the General Assembly pushed the treaty process forward after negotiations twice failed to deliver on the goal of developing the treaty by consensus. The Obama Administration is expected to sign the treaty soon after it is opened for signature on June 3.
According to a May 16 Amnesty International article, a senior US diplomat–Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman–has confirmed the U.S. government will be quick to sign the new treaty. According to the article, Countryman said on Wednesday that the United States would sign the ATT “in the very near future.”
If the deeply problematic treaty is signed, the fight will move to the U.S. Senate, where the Obama administration would need to find 67 senators to ratify the treaty.
Of course, anti-gun Amnesty International approves of the treaty and is advocating its signing and ratification. In addition, Amnesty International has gone so far as to claim that the treaty will not affect “domestic gun control regulations.”
On the contrary, the ATT does indeed threaten the rights and privacy of American gun owners. Signatories will be encouraged to keep information on the “end users” of arms imported into their territory and supply such information to the exporting country. Exporting nations, nearly all of which have civilian firearm control regimes far harsher than the U.S., will be encouraged to take the firearm control laws of an importing country into account before approving a transfer of arms. And the treaty also encourages states to adopt domestic legislation to facilitate the treaty’s onerous requirements.
A majority of senators have already made clear their opposition to ratifying the ATT. On March 23, 53 senators endorsed an amendment to the Senate Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2014, “establish[ing] a deficit neutral fund” to oppose United States entrance into the treaty. Additionally, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), along with 32 cosponsors, has put forth a concurrent resolution expressing the Senate’s opposition to the ATT, as it “fails to expressly recognize the fundamental, individual right to keep and to bear arms and the individual right of personal self-defense… and thus risks infringing on freedoms protected by the Second Amendment.”
Unfortunately, once a treaty has been signed, it normally remains available for the Senate to ratify in perpetuity, unless a later president withdraws from it. This means that American gun owners must remain vigilant in ensuring this treaty is never ratified. The NRA will continue to keep gun owners up to date on any movement toward ratification, and will work with our allies in the Senate to ensure the treaty remains unratified.