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What “Unsigning” the Arms Trade Treaty Means for American Gun Owners

Friday, May 3, 2019

What “Unsigning” the Arms Trade Treaty Means for American Gun Owners

Last Friday, President Trump took the historic step of ordering the “unsigning” of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty during his address to the NRA-ILA’s Leadership Forum. President Trump’s action effectively withdraws the United States from the most comprehensive effort towards international gun control.

Much of the intervening coverage on the ATT has focused on how the treaty did or did not constrain U.S. arms sales abroad, but many average law-abiding gun owners may be questioning how the treaty could or couldn’t have affected them.  

NRA’s complaints regarding the treaty have always been based on its potential effect on law-abiding American gun owners. Those complaints have focused on the treaty’s requirements for end use verification, its sometimes-unintelligible vagueness, its ability to be amended without the consensus of all parties, and its proponents repeated refusals to clarify that it has no effect on the possession of small arms by civilians in the United States.

The treaty urges record keeping of end users, directing importing countries to provide information to an exporting country regarding arms transfers, including “end use or end user documentation” for a “minimum of ten years.” Each country is to “take measures, pursuant to its national laws, to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction for conventional arms.” Data kept on the end users of imported firearms is a de-facto registry of law-abiding firearms owners, which is a violation of federal law. Even worse, the ATT could be construed to require such a registry to be made available to foreign governments. NRA’s complaints regarding the treaty have always been based on its potential effect on law-abiding American gun owners. Those complaints have focused on the treaty’s requirements for end use verification, its sometimes-unintelligible vagueness, its ability to be amended without the consensus of all parties, and its proponents repeated refusals to clarify that it has no effect on the possession of small arms by civilians in the United States.

The vagueness of the treaty and its ease of being “amended” is best exemplified by actions that took place at a conference on the treaty last year. At that conference, proponents of the treaty “welcome[ed]” several living documents into the ATT. While seemingly innocuous on its face, this change incorporated the International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS) into the ATT.

Falsely described as established “international standards” or “international norms” that “provide clear, practical and comprehensive guidance to practitioners and policymakers on fundamental aspects of small arms and light weapons control”, the ISACS are in reality a series of six standards developed by the UN for states to use in implementing their global disarmament agenda. Series 3 – Legislative and Regulatory – and its Module 3.30, “National Regulation of Civilian Access to Small Arms and Light Weapons,” is the most alarming of all the ISACS.

Purporting to set the standards for “National Regulation of Civilian Access to Small Arms and Light Weapons,” Module 3.30 creates a means to almost entirely limit civilian access to small arms under the guise of International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law, and Gender Based Violence. Highlights include, but are not limited to; a ban on civilian possession of “military” style arms – no automatic weapons or magazines with over a 10 round capacity, ballistic recordings, different risk classifications on types of firearms (i.e. calibers over .45 are an intolerable risk to public safety and semi-auto handguns and rifles are high risk), licensing and registration of all firearms, training and storage restrictions, waiting periods, 20-year record retention requirements of sellers, age limits and requiring a demonstrated need to possess a firearm, with self-defense not being one of them. Perhaps the easiest way to understand the future danger the ATT posed to U.S. gun owners is the complete refusal by proponents of the treaty to clarify that it would have no effect on the possession of small arms by law-abiding American gun owners.  

While incorporation by reference of the ISACS into the ATT was alarming, it was also not entirely unpredictable. As with every anti-firearm UN initiative, concern must never lie entirely with what is in it now, but with what it will become and how it will be used by a future U.S. administration, especially one seeking international justification for a gun control agenda.  

Perhaps the easiest way to understand the future danger the ATT posed to U.S. gun owners is the complete refusal by proponents of the treaty to clarify that it would have no effect on the possession of small arms by law-abiding American gun owners.  NRA and other opponents of the treaty repeatedly asked for a carve-out in the treaty, yet those requests were flatly denied. If the treaty’s proponents had no intention of limiting American gun ownership, why resist such a limitation to the text of the treaty?

Instead, the treaty included language in its preamble that treaty parties be “mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law.” A careful read will show that the use of arms for individual and collective defense is notably missing from this statement, and the statement creates no limitation and is really only an aspirational provision.

Please join us in thanking President Trump for protecting our firearms freedoms by removing any obligation of the United States to be bound by the “object and purpose” of the Arms Trade Treaty.

 

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.