Capital Hill is under pressure to adopt the approaching U.N. arms treaty, from the New York Times, to Reuters, to confused and goofy Christians who forgot all about their theology and think that a new regulation, law or treaty will bring peace on earth and good will toward men.
We have been informed that this administration will not allow the U.N. to impose any restrictions on American’s gun rights. But then again, this is the same administration that:  Sent Donald Verrilli and Lanny Breuer to argue against Sean Masciandaro concerning the possession of firearms on National Park land,  Nominated Justice Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court (who testified that Heller was settled law, and then dissented in McDonald versus Chicago, agreeing with Breyer who argued for overturning Heller), and  Named Rose Gottemoeller to head the U.S. delegation to the U.N. arms control negotiations, the very same Rose Gottemoeller who informed Moscow that the U.S. was open to significant compromise on U.S. missile defense.
In fact, a short tour through the U.N. schemes shows that international tracing, combined with nationalized regulations and controls on the manufacture, transfer and sell of small arms, is the central feature of the plan. The U.N. program for implementation includes such requirements as no “military style” weapons should be possessed by civilians, a registered and traceable lifetime for every weapon, and so on. Courtesy of reddit/guns, here is a marked-up listing of the kinds of regulations envisioned by the U.N.
As we have discussed before, the distinction between civilian and military weapons is meaningless today, and wasn’t ever very useful. Bolt action rifles, semi-automatic rifles, tactical shotguns and a whole host of other kinds of weapons are being used in both civilian and military applications, and have been for a very long time. A U.N. distinction between civilian and military weapons would yield regulations more onerous than the assault weapons ban (sunset provision on September 13, 2004) ever could. A U.N. distinction between civilian and military owners achieves nothing beyond what the U.N. already wants, i.e., an international gun registry and lack of weapons transferability, and thus is this distinction a disingenuous subterfuge. Promises to exempt “civilians” – whatever that means – doesn’t make this treaty any less dangerous to firearms ownership in America.
Missives on why treaties do not obviate or supersede the constitution, while well intentioned and informative, miss the point entirely. Even in the wake of the Heller and McDonald rulings, there are still four justices on the Supreme Court who fundamentally do not believe in the second amendment, and then at least one who sees reversal of Heller on the horizon with a “future, wiser court.” Furthermore, the decisions in Heller and McDonald do not address issues such as a gun registry, further controls on transfer of weapons across state lines or even within states, or other meaningless and intrusive ATF regulations. There is a pregnant field of un-litigated second amendment issues in America, and the existence of an international treaty only complicates gun ownership. It isn’t obvious that any court, much less the Supreme Court, would find stipulations similar to the ones in the U.N. treaty to be unconstitutional.
Finally, take note that international luminaries such as Iran – known to supply weapons to insurgents in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – have been appointed to a post negotiating the treaty. The very real possibility exists that legitimate weapons sales from the U.S. to allies (such as Israel) would become problematic under the treaty. Taiwan, for instance, is concerned that the treaty could undercut weapons imports.
The silliness of the treaty and its effect on other nations is outlined fairly well by David Bosco at Foreign Policy (even if Bosco is willing to overlook its silliness).
There was a lot of talk at the session about the absurdity that sales of bananas are more regulated internationally than sales of assault rifles and about the need for more states to enact domestic legislation regulating arms transfers. The assembled activists did leaven their optimism with a dose of reality. They acknowledged that the treaty almost certainly would not contain any binding language or enforcement mechanisms. Instead, every country will determine for itself whether an arms sale or transfer is likely to contribute to human rights violations. (Under the ATT likely to emerge, Russia could report that it has duly considered whether arming Syrian forces would lead to violations and decided that it would not. Nobody would be able to gainsay the Kremlin, at least not through the treaty mechanism.) What’s more, the treaty negotiations will be conducted on a consensus basis (Washington insisted on that), which means that any state can block adoption of a text it doesn’t like.
So civilians in America would be subject to onerous new regulations since America is a law abiding nation, while rogue nations would be free to export weapons as they see fit. Or in other words, the criminals have the guns while the law abiding citizens are disarmed, sort of like gun control in America. As I have previously observed, the U.N. arms treaty is a solution in search of a problem.
Not only does this treaty intrude on the second amendment rights of American citizens, and not only is it hypocritical in its intent, it would target the very country who abides by its laws and allow the perpetrators justification for their own actions. The treaty is just one more progressive, micromanaging, over-controlling, statist solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. We’ve seen ten thousand like it, and as long as the U.N. gets funding and a home from the U.S. government, we will see many more instances of this kind of busy-body meddling into the affairs of American citizens.
Regardless of what kind of language is included in the treaty concerning military and civilian weapons, it does nothing to address the real problem of weapons traffickers such as Iran, and there is no reason to ratify it.
UPDATE: Thanks to David Codrea for the attention to this.
UPDATE #2: Glenn Reynolds says bring it!
The U.N. Small Arms Treaty