The National Rifle Association is busy. Not only is it fighting anti-gun legislation at both the state and federal level, as of yesterday, it carried on its fight internationally.
Negotiations began Monday to hammer out a global arms trade agreement at the United Nations. Such a treaty would cover the international trafficking of weapons of war, such as battle tanks, artillery, combat aircraft, warships and missiles. It would also include small arms, and that’s the sticking point with Second Amendment advocates such as the National Rifle Association.
The biggest participants in worldwide arms sales are the United States, China and Russia.
“This treaty is a common-sense alignment of the interests of governments, law-abiding citizens and individuals all over the world, who deserve the right to live free from harm,” said Michelle A. Ringuette, of Amnesty International USA, according to the Washington Post. “Any step toward restraining the illicit sale and transfer of weapons used to commit horrific crimes is a good move forward, and the world could use a lot more steps in the direction of ending human rights abuses.”
Last summer the Obama administration vacillated on an arms treaty after a bipartisan group of senators sent the White House a letter indicating they would not ratify such an agreement.
Since then, two events have given the administration resolve to once again show its support: The president’s re-election and the tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“The United States is steadfast in its commitment to achieve a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty that helps address the adverse effects of the international arms trade on global peace and stability,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry said in a statement Friday. “We will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment.”
The NRA is saying, “Not so fast.” It objects to what it terms “civilian weapons” being thrown into the mix with warships and battle tanks.
“What we really object to is the inclusion of civilian firearms within the scope of the ATT,” said Tom Mason, the group’s executive secretary. “This is a treaty that really needs to address the transfer of large numbers of military weapons that leads to human rights abuses. We have submitted language that you can define what a civilian firearm is.”
Mason has represented the NRA at U.N. meetings for nearly two decades in his capacity as an attorney according to the Post. The NRA doesn’t object to the inclusion of small arms into the treaty, so long as it deals strictly with military small arms. It sees a distinction between military and civilian weaponry.
The treaty’s proponents call such a distinction hogwash.
“The NRA claim that there is such a thing as ‘civilian weapons’ and that these can and need to be treated differently from military weapons under the Arms Trade Treaty is — to put it politely — the gun lobby’s creativity on full display,” Ringuette said in a statement. “There is no such distinction. To try to create one would create a loophole that would render the treaty inoperative, as anyone could claim that he or she was in the business of trading ‘civilian weapons.’ ”
If the NRA loses its battle at the United Nations, it will continue its effort in the U.S. Senate, which has to ratify any international treaty by a two-thirds vote, — 67 senators.
Last year 51 senators signed the letter urging the president to oppose the treaty. The Senate’s current make-up is 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and two Independents who generally caucus with the Democrats.
Read more at The Washington Post.
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