Fifty senators from both sides of the aisle wrote President Obama last week to oppose ratification of an arms trade treaty that they say would threaten Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
In October 2009 the Obama administration voted for the U.S. to participate in negotiating the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty. Negotiations fell through at the U.N. a day after the senators wrote Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement Friday evening that the U.S. supports a second round of negotiations next year.
The treaty would require that each member state have national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms and to regulate arms brokers.
“Having reviewed the Chairman’s Draft Paper made available by the United Nations, we are concerned that the Arms Trade Treaty poses dangers to rights protected under the Second Amendment,” the senators wrote.
They note that the draft nominally applies only to “international arms transfers,” but defines such transfers as including “transport” across national territory. It requires signatories to “monitor and control” arms in transit, and to “enforce domestically the obligations of this treaty” by prohibiting the unauthorized “transfer of arms from any location.”
“This implies an expansion of federal firearms controls that would be unacceptable on Second Amendment grounds,” they wrote.
The draft requires nations to “maintain records of all imports and shipments of arms that transit their territory,” including the identity of individual end users, and requires that nations “shall take all appropriate measures necessary to prevent the diversion of imported arms into the illicit market or to unintended end users.”
The senators asked that the treaty “explicitly recognize the legitimacy of hunting, sport shooting, and other lawful activities – including the collection and display by individuals and museums of military antiques – related to the private ownership of firearms, and related materials.”
“Second, the treaty should not include the manufacturing, assembly, possession, transfer, or purchase of small arms, light weapons, ammunition, or related materials that are defined under domestic law by national authority as legal for private ownership, nor should it contain any open-ended obligations that could imply any need to impose controls that would have any domestic effect on any or all of these items,” they wrote. “Third, the Draft Paper is based in part on recognizing the inherent right of all states to individual or collective self-defense. We certainly agree that this right is inherent, at least, in all democratic and law-abiding states. But we also believe that the right of personal self-defense is a human right that is inherent in the individual.”
The senators vowed to oppose ratification of the treaty if it doesn’t rise to their standards of Second Amendment protection.
Democrats who signed the letter were Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.).