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Is the UN Planning to Clamp Down on Gun Sales?


“Neither the United Nations, nor any other foreign influence, has the authority to meddle with the freedoms guaranteed by our Bill of Rights.”

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 15: Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, arrives to deliver remarks during the second day of the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 15, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland. The American conservative Union held its annual conference in the suburb of Washington, DC, to rally conservatives and generate ideas. Credit: Getty Images

With all the efforts by politicians within the United States to limit gun rights, one would think the National Rifle Association (NRA) would have its hands full. But as it happens, there may be another threat coming from the international community that has sparked similar levels of opposition from the NRA. That alleged threat is a United Nations (U.N.) treaty designed to clamp down on unsavory elements within the global arms trade.

Fox News reports:

The draft treaty under consideration does not control the domestic use of weapons in any country, but it would prohibit states that ratify the treaty from transferring conventional weapons if they would violate arms embargoes or if they would promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

In considering whether to authorize the export of arms, the draft says a country must evaluate whether the weapon would be used to violate international human rights or humanitarian laws or be used by terrorists, organized crime or for corrupt practices.

Many countries, including the United States, control arms exports, but there has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $60 billion global arms trade. For more than a decade, activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organized crime.[...]

The National Rifle Association has portrayed the treaty as a threat to gun ownership rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. The politically controversial issue of gun regulations has re-emerged since a gunman opened fire on Dec. 14 at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and six educators.

The NRA's opposition is grounded in a fear that the treaty's provisions banning export and trade of certain weapons ("civilian firearms" is the phrase used) could be interpreted over-expansively and thus infringe on the ability of Americans to get more guns. However, UN experts are skeptical. The UK Guardian explains their skepticism:

Human rights campaigners said that the resurgence of the NRA's campaign was designed to "stir up anti-UN panic" ahead of the UN conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, which opens on Monday in New York. The Obama administration indicated in a statement on Friday that it would sign the pact.

For years, the NRA has painted the UN as a bogeyman figure, claiming in its literature and fundraising drives that there is an international conspiracy to "grab your guns". Last July, when negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty broke down – in part because of US resistance to global regulations on gun sales – the gun lobby group claimed victory for "killing the UN ATT".[...]

According to the Small Arms Survey, roughly 650m of the 875m weapons in the world are in the hands of civilians. That, arms control advocates say, is why any arms trade treaty must regulate both military and civilian weapons.

Scott Stedjan, of Oxfam America described the NRA's opposition to the treaty as "irrelevant". "They know that arms treaty is not going to impact domestic gun control" he said. "The issue they are most concerned about lies outside the treaty."

Nevertheless, the NRA's opposition is grounded on more than simple fears that the UN's treaty will have objectionable policy consequences. Their objection is that no UN treaty should be allowed to exert authority over Americans' constitutional rights, however loosely. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has been especially forceful on this topic.

“Neither the United Nations, nor any other foreign influence, has the authority to meddle with the freedoms guaranteed by our Bill of Rights,” LaPierre said in an address to the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty Conference last July.

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