Arms Treaty Gets Shot Down
August 3, 2012
Editorial / San Francisco Chronicle & Donna Cassata / Associated Press
When a global treaty to limit shady weapons sales gets swept up in the gun-control debate, it's clear that this country has a problem. A bloc of US senators, chiefly Republicans with a sprinkling of Democrats, has managed to derail a UN treaty to restrict weapons sales between countries. The reasoning is spurious and shameful, a political play on distrust of the United Nations and unfounded fears about a loss of domestic gun rights
Arms Treaty Gets Shot Down
Editorial / San Francisco Chronicle
SAN FRANCISCO (July 30, 2012) -- When a global treaty to limit shady weapons sales gets swept up in the gun-control debate, its clear that this country has a problem. A bloc of U.S. senators, chiefly Republicans with a sprinkling of Democrats, has managed to derail a U.N. treaty to restrict weapons sales between countries.
The reasoning is spurious and shameful, a political play on distrust of the United Nations and unfounded fears about a loss of domestic gun rights. But the threat was enough to lead the Obama White House to pull back on final-day treaty deliberations. The decision kicks talks past the November presidential vote.
The delay undercuts a plan to keep conventional weapons ranging from rifles to tanks out of the hands of terrorists, warlords and authoritarian rulers. Foes such as the National Rifle Association fervently -- and errantly -- argued that such a plan would lead to greater gun control in this county. The Aurora, Colo., massacre put gun rights proponents on full alert at the slightest suggestion of strong weapons laws.
The result is a failure on the arms control front. But it's also a cave-in to the unreasonable and antagonistic gun lobby. President Obama is ducking a fight -- one he believes he can't afford in a close election -- and handing a win to his foes.
At issue is a treaty proposed in 2006 that would oblige international arms brokers to report imports, exports and transfers of weapons. Common standards would keep military hardware from battlefields and civil wars covered by arms embargoes.
The United States, which is the biggest arms seller, already has such rules. But over half the world's countries have no guidelines, a loophole that fuels a $55 billion per year arms business pouring weaponry into Syria, Sudan and Congo.
Let's be clear here. The treaty says nothing about domestic gun laws, and the Constitution takes precedence over a foreign pact such as this one. But gunrights ultras have amped the issue to the point where the treaty is perceived as a global take-away plot.
There is a slim hope that the treaty may be taken up by the U.N. General Assembly, but that's less effective than a treaty designed to ensure full buy-in from all countries.
Russia and China, both major weapons sellers, had objected to the treaty's outlines that undercut their global aims. Also, there were other changes that watered down the strength of the pact.
But without the United State's support, the weapons limitations won’t mean much, a result that should delight dictators and their generals. It’s a result that can be blamed on our socalled leaders' undue deference to the whims and fears of the gun lobby.
51 Senators Voice Grave Concerns with Arms Treaty
Donna Cassata / Associated Press
WASHINGTON (July 26, 2012) -- A bipartisan group of 51 senators on Thursday threatened to oppose a global treaty regulating international weapons trade if it falls short in protecting the constitutional right to bear arms.
In a letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the senators expressed serious concerns with the draft treaty that has circulated at the United Nations, saying that it signals an expansion of gun control that would be unacceptable.
The world's nations are pressing to complete the first legally binding treaty dealing with arms trade and preventing the transfer of weapons to armed groups and terrorists. The 193-member U.N. General Assembly is expected to approve the treaty this month.
The senators said as the negotiations continue, "we strongly encourage your administration not only to uphold our country's constitutional protections of civilian firearms ownership, but to ensure -- if necessary, by breaking consensus at the July conference -- that the treaty will explicitly recognize the legitimacy of lawful activities associated with firearms, including but not limited to the right of self-defense.
"As members of the United States Senate, we will oppose the ratification of any Arms Trade Treaty that falls short of this standard," they wrote.
The lawmakers insisted that the treaty should explicitly recognize the legitimacy of hunting, sport shooting and other lawful activities.
They also raised concerns that the draft defines international arms transfers as including transport across national territory while requiring the monitor and control of arms in transit.
The National Rifle Association opposes the treaty, saying its members will never surrender the right to bear arms to the United Nations.
The treaty has been in the works since 2006. Abandoning the Bush administration opposition, the Obama supported an assembly resolution to hold this year's four-week conference on the treaty.
In April, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, Thomas Countryman, reiterated U.S. support for a treaty.
"We want any treaty to make it more difficult and expensive to conduct illicit, illegal and destabilizing transfers of arms," he said. "But we do not want something that would make legitimate international arms trade more cumbersome than the hurdles United States exporters already face."
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