In a recent article, Adam Weinstein from The Trace argues that concerns over the United Nations Global Arms Trade Treaty are overblown. Basically, Weinstein says that the vaguely worded and tepidly supported doctrine does not pose an existential threat to the Second Amendment. Yet, despite its innocuousness, Weinstein asserts, the treaty is being used by the National Rifle Association as fear porn, a way to gin up support, donations and engagement from the pro-gun masses.
Weinstein is correct to an extent. The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty in its current iteration is not the death of one’s right to keep and bear arms in the states. But that doesn’t mean gun owners shouldn’t be alarmed by the those who support an international arms deal.
Why It’s Not a Threat
The Arms Trade Treaty is an international treaty designed to encourage member states that engage in the import, export and transfer of conventional arms to be more scrupulous before selling different categories of weapons to other countries and regimes. Within the ATT, there are calls for each country to be more transparent about their importing/exporting of conventional weaponry, e.g. battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers and small arms and light weapons.
Quite honestly, the ATT is a joke. It’s wishful thinking. Like all gun control legislation, it starts from a flawed premise that one more law, or in this case international treaty, is all that’s needed to stop bad actors from behaving badly. Of course, that’s absurd. Criminals, by definition, flout the law. So do failed states and rogue superpowers. We can sanction Russia, China, Iran or whomever we wish for violating international law, but does that stop them from continuing to do so? Not usually.
But what’s funny about the ATT is that it’s having a lot of trouble gaining support from those nations —- including the U.S. — that do the vast majority of arms importing and exporting. As Weinstein pointed out:
“It’s hard to see how any such treaty will be enforceable in a meaningful way. Because of the U.N.’s principle of general respect for member nations’ sovereignty — a principle that’s made it infamously slow to react to crises and genocides — the small arms treaty is binding only on the 72 states who have ratified it. Absent from that list, as mentioned above, is the U.S. Absent, too, are China and Russia, who together with America represent three of the globe’s largest small-arms dealers. Nor have conflict-torn states like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo committed to the agreement.”
So, every country the U.N. wants to sign on the dotted line has not yet done so and probably won’t unless major concessions are made with respect to the level of trading transparency each country is required to report. It stands to reason that by the time they’re done negotiating, the ATT will be so toothless in its mandates that it won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.
There is another reason that the ATT is not a legitimate threat to the U.S. Our GOP-dominated Congress will never approve it. On several occasions, lawmakers have sent letters to the Obama administration stating that they will vote against the Arms Trade Treaty, including one signed in 2013 by as many as 49 senators and 181 representatives. The lawmakers cited the following reasons for opposing the treaty:
1. The treaty failed to achieve consensus, and was adopted by majority vote in the U.N. General Assembly. This violates the red line drawn by the Obama Administration;
2. The treaty allows amendments by a three-quarters majority vote, circumventing the power and duty of the U.S. Senate to provide its advice and consent on treaty commitments before they are assumed by the United States;
3. The treaty includes only a weak non-binding reference to the lawful ownership, use of, and trade in firearms, and recognizes none of these activities, much less individual self-defense, as fundamental individual rights. This poses a threat to the Second Amendment;
4. The State Department has acknowledged that the treaty is “ambiguous.” By becoming party to the treaty, the U.S. would therefore be accepting commitments that are inherently unclear;
5. The criteria at the heart of the treaty are vague and easily politicized. They violate the right of the American people, under the Constitution, to freely govern themselves. The language restricts the ability of the United States to conduct its own foreign policy and allows foreign sources of authority to impose judgment or control upon the United States; and,
6. The State Department has acknowledged that the treaty includes language that could hinder the United States from fulfilling its strategic, legal and moral commitments to provide arms to key allies such as the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the State of Israel.
Identifying the Legitimate Threat
So, the bottom line is gun owners shouldn’t fear this particular ATT. What they should fear, however, is the people behind the Arms Trade Treaty. For lack of a better description: gun-grabbers.
There is no doubt that the NRA makes mountains out of mole hills when it comes to gun-control, not every piece of gun control legislation is as onerous as the NRA makes it appear. By definition then, the NRA is guilty of fear-mongering.
But is it really? I suppose it is if you see each bill as a self-contained effort that has no connection to a larger movement or network of organizations that promote an anti-gun agenda. Seeing it this way, though, is a bit naive in my opinion. The way I view gun control legislation is that every bill is part of a coordinated attack or, if you prefer, a slippery slope that leads to changing the Second Amendment as we know it today.
My friends who are sympathetic to the pro-gun control cause would argue that I’m being hyperbolic, like the NRA, that the “slippery slope” argument doesn’t hold water. Specifically, they’d say, “There’s nothing wrong with a background check! Why don’t you support background checks?”
My response is that today’s background check bill is tomorrow’s magazine ban. And tomorrow’s mag ban is a future ban on black rifles. And on and on and on. When my friends accuse me of being obtuse and regurgitating NRA platitudes, I’d simply say, “Where do so-called ‘common sense’ and ‘reasonable restrictions’ end? Go ahead and ask gun-control advocates. Ask them where it ends. Because most of them won’t have an honest answer to that question.”
Think about it. If this whole debate was merely about background checks — or treaties to hold feckless U.N. member states accountable on their arm trading — then there would be no debate. We’d reach a compromise and put the issues to bed.
Unfortunately, though, it’s not just about the low-hanging fruits of background checks for private buyers and transparency requirements for U.N. member states. It’s about shifting the country and the world in a direction where one’s individual right to keep and bear arms is wholly subjugated by the powers that be. Make no mistake about it, they are coming for our guns! And that’s not hyperbolic rhetoric. That’s not fear mongering. That’s reality. Just look beyond the background check debate or the Arms Trade Treaty debate and examine New York’s confiscatory SAFE Act or Seattle’s $25 tax on gun purchases or Los Angeles magazine ban and tell me what you see… The writing is on the wall.