July 23, 2012 | Commentary on Arms Control Treaties
Defenders of Americans’ constitutional right to “keep and bear” arms have been rightly alarmed by treaty negotiations underway in Turtle Bay. Thankfully, the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is finally getting the congressional attention it deserves.
How bad is it? Here’s one clue: Iran was selected to provide one of the 14 vice presidents for the ATT conference. That’s right: a treaty that’s supposed to be about stopping terrorism and preventing human rights abuses, and the U.N. decides to give the ceremonial spotlight to Iran, a nation that supplies arms to Hamas, Hezbollah, and the murderous Syrian government.
John Lott wrote for Fox News that we know a lot about the Treaty just by virtue of the nations negotiating its details. Many of the countries included in the negotiations ban handguns and do not recognize the inherent right of personal self-defense. And, as Lott notes, “The Obama administration is undoubtedly the most hostile administration to gun ownership in U.S. history, with Obama having personally supported of handguns and semi-automatic weapons before becoming president.” All of this should raise red flags for constitutional conservatives.
Lott worries the ATT will give U.S. anti-gun activists leverage to regulate private ownership of guns. According to Lott, “The most likely regulations to be pushed by the UN treaty are those that have been the favorites of American gun control advocates for years -- registration and licensing, micro-stamping ammunition, and restrictions on the private transfers of guns.” Given their political failures, the best way for anti-gun activists to implement these sneaky schemes is through an ATT that contains language requiring the U.S. government to promote their favorite policies.
Pro-gun groups are already fighting back. Wayne LaPierre of the NRA addressed the ATT conference earlier this month and said, “No foreign influence has jurisdiction over the freedoms our Founding Fathers guaranteed to us.” John Velleco of Gun Owners of America tells Townhall that “we have seen bad gun control ideas in the past, but we have never seen anything as insidious as the Arms Trade Treaty.”
Thankfully, two members of Congress, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Penn.) and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), are standing their ground and leading their colleagues against this bad idea.
Rep. Kelly is fighting any attempt to put limits on the Second Amendment. Though only a freshman Congressman, Kelly understands that international pacts can affect his constituents at home. In early July, he released a carefully-drafted letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, co-signed by 130 members of the House, expressing a broad range of concerns with the potential impact of an ATT.
“The U.N.’s actions to date indicate that the ATT is likely to pose significant threats to our national security, foreign policy, and economic interests as well as our constitutional rights,” Kelly wrote. He urged the Administration to “establish firm red lines” for its negotiating team. One of those lines: Reject “an ATT that infringes on our constitutional rights, particularly the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms.” The letter also noted that the Treaty could produce significant job loss across the U.S., damage our defense industrial base, and make it harder for us to arm our allies.
Sen. Moran introduced S. 2205, the Second Amendment Sovereignty Act, in May. By blocking funding, this bill would prevent the Administration from negotiating any Arms Trade Treaty that violated the Second Amendment. Moran argued on the Senate floor that a treaty allowing international bodies to regulate civilian firearms could wind up letting those institutions “restrict the lawful private ownership of firearms in our country.” The Senate is unlikely to ratify any treaty that does this, but Moran was smart to introduce legislation to forbid the Administration from negotiating an ATT that explicitly targets the Second Amendment.
Rep. Kelly and Sen. Moran have shown good conservative leadership. Let’s hope their work, and the expression of concerns from Congress and Second Amendment defenders, limit the risks of this unwise and secretly-drafted treaty.
First appeared in Townhall.com