UN Arms Treaty Coming Down to the Wire

Why, even in its watered down form, the treaty is bad for America -- and good for rogue regimes.

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty negotiations are coming down to the wire.  A new draft of the treaty language was circulated on July 24th, with the hope that a consensus could be reached before July 27th, the scheduled deadline for completion of the treaty.

The draft does not please the arms control crowd, who believe it is full of loopholes.

Commenting on the draft text, Brian Wood, Head of Arms Control and Human Rights at Amnesty International said:

World leaders have only three days to close the major loopholes in the draft treaty, including the obvious need to cover ammunition and all types of international transfer, not just trade. And there are several other devils in the detail.

Wood blamed the United States for creating "designer loopholes" and said that President Obama was "sitting on the key to the door."  Considering what Amnesty International would like to see lying behind that door - a comprehensive global arms control treaty with transnational enforcement mechanisms - we can only hope that Obama continues sitting on the key.

Anna Macdonald, head of Arms Control, Oxfam, said that the current treaty draft had "more holes than a leaky bucket."

One of the gun control lobby's biggest complaints - shared by many member state speakers who provided their views on the latest draft during a plenary session of the Arms Trade Treaty conference - was the dropping of ammunition from the list of items specifically covered by the treaty.  Instead, it is left up to each state party to "establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of munitions." Many European countries lined up with African countries in particular to condemn the omission of ammunition from the new draft's scope.

It does appear that, behind the scenes, the United States pressed for the omission of ammunition from the scope of covered items and got its way. If that is the case, then President Obama has done something right in the short term at least, motivated no doubt by political considerations to avoid Second Amendment issues until after the election.

The gun control lobbyists also did not like the narrowing of the activities covered by the treaty to "international trade in conventional arms," as opposed to any sort of transfers that would include foreign aid.

They also criticized the degree of discretion given to state parties to assess for themselves whether a proposed export of conventional arms would be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws, and whether such risks might be outweighed by the positive contribution of such exports to "peace and security."

The more the gun control lobby complains of loopholes, the better things look for those of us who believe in the Second Amendment and national sovereignty, absent the sacking of the treaty altogether.

Removing ammunition from the list of covered items is a good start.  However, an even leakier bucket would be welcomed.  For example, in my previous article on the treaty negotiations, I pointed out that the category of small and light weapons being discussed was not limited to controlling the transfers of weapons intended and designed solely for military use. That has not changed in the current draft.

The current draft still lacks a clear statement in its legally binding operative provisions that the treaty does not apply to the manufacture, possession, use, sale or transfer of guns domestically, irrespective of whether, in the words of the most current draft of the text, there could conceivably be a "diversion" of such firearms "to the illicit market or to unauthorized end-users."

On balance, even in its watered down state, the United States should still not support this treaty.  It won't stop the rogue states like Iran and Syria from importing and exporting whatever arms they can get their hands on. Russia is unlikely to abide by its terms either, given its record in shipping arms to Syria. Yet, if we become a party to this treaty, we will dutifully abide by all of its terms, including the sharing of detailed records on authorizations and actual international transfers of guns and other conventional arms with a newly established "Implementation Support Unit," which may make such records public. That provides a nice roadmap for our enemies, including terrorists.

The president of the treaty negotiations conference, who hails from Argentina, analogized the treaty negotiations to the tango.  Other member states extended this analogy to the preferred dances of their own countries, such as Cuba's mention of the rumba. This is one dance that the United States should decline to be a part of.

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