A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

International Gun Ban Treaty?


Q: Has Obama found a "legal way around the Second Amendment"?

A: The administration’s agreement to talk about writing a United Nations treaty to regulate arms exports and imports is a far cry from banning possession of firearms, which Obama says he doesn’t want to do and the Supreme Court has said can’t be done anyway.

FULL QUESTION

Is this correct?

Obama Finds Legal Way Around The 2nd. Amendment and Uses It. The Full Article Here http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE59E0Q920091015

Subject: Obama Takes First Step in Banning All Firearms On Wednesday Obama Took the First Major Step in a Plan to Ban All Firearms in the United States 

[EET ]On Wednesday the Obama administration took its first major step in a plan to ban all firearms in the United States . The Obama administration intends to force gun control and a complete ban on all weapons for US citizens through the signing of international treaties with foreign nations. By signing international treaties on gun control, the Obama administration can use the US State Department to bypass the normal legislative process in Congress. Once the US Government signs these international treaties, all US citizens will be subject to those gun laws created by foreign governments. These are laws that have been developed and promoted by organizations such as the United Nations and individuals such as George Soros and Michael Bloomberg. The laws are designed and intended to lead to the complete ban and confiscation of all firearms.

The Obama administration is attempting to use tactics and methods of gun control that will inflict major damage to our 2nd Amendment before US citizens even understand what has happened. Obama can appear before the public and tell them that he does not intend to pursue any legislation (in the United States) that will lead to new gun control laws, while cloaked in secrecy, his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton is committing the US to international treaties and foreign gun control laws. Does that mean Obama is telling the truth? What it means is that there will be no publicized gun control debates in the media or votes in Congress. We will wake up one morning and find that the United States has signed a treaty that prohibits firearm and ammunition manufacturers from selling to the public. We will wake up another morning and find that the US has signed a treaty that prohibits any transfer of firearm ownership. And then, we will wake up yet another morning and find that the US has signed a treaty that requires US citizens to deliver any firearm they own to the local government collection and destruction center or face imprisonment.

This is not a joke nor a false warning. As sure as government health care will be forced on us by the Obama administration through whatever means necessary, so will gun control.

[/EET]

FULL ANSWER

We’ve received many queries about this chain e-mail, which refers to a proposed United Nations treaty to regulate the global trade of conventional weapons.

Much of what this e-mail claims is simply false. A "complete ban on all weapons for US citizens" isn’t possible under our Constitution, according to the Supreme Court, which held just last year that:

District of Columbia v. Heller, 26 June 2008: (T)he enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.

Furthermore, if an arms trade treaty ever materializes, the administration won’t be able to "bypass" Congress, as the e-mail maintains. All international treaties require the approval of two-thirds of the Senate before they are considered ratified and in effect.

In addition, the idea that a treaty necessarily would make U.S. citizens "subject to those gun laws created by foreign governments," as the e-mail claims, is wrong. Treaties don’t subject one nations’ citizens to the laws of other nations. They do commit governments to whatever actions a treaty specifies, such as ceasing to test nuclear weapons, in the case of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (a treaty signed by the U.S., but never ratified by Congress).

As for this particular treaty: First of all, it doesn’t yet exist. What is true is that the Obama administration, reversing the line taken by the Bush White House, has voted to support a process that could, in 2012 at the earliest, result in a treaty.

The idea of achieving an international agreement on trade in conventional arms has long been kicking around, and in 2006 the UN General Assembly passed a resolution titled "Toward an arms trade treaty." The measure instructed the UN secretary-general to get the views of all member states on "the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms." A panel of "governmental experts" was tasked with providing advice as well. The resolution was approved 153-1, the only dissenter being the U.S.

Then in 2008, the General Assembly passed another resolution, this one calling for further efforts toward an arms trade treaty (ATT) through a new open-ended working group. Again, the U.S. provided the only vote against the measure.

Since President Obama took office, though, the U.S. has been more receptive to the notion. In mid-October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement saying: "The United States is committed to actively pursuing a strong and robust treaty that contains the highest possible, legally binding standards for the international transfer of conventional weapons." And on Oct. 28, the General Assembly voted 153-1 to move forward in preparation for a United Nations conference on the arms trade treaty in 2012 that could yield a formal document. This time, Zimbabwe was the lone naysayer (19 nations abstained).

Some critics of the concept of an arms trade treaty say they believe, like the author of the e-mail above, that it’s a back-door avenue to gun control. In fact, suspicions that the UN wants to seize Americans’ guns have been circulating since the mid-1990s. Those fears dovetail with trepidations that some have about Obama on this issue. John Bolton, former ambassador to the UN under the George W. Bush administration, recently told the NRANews:

Bolton, Nov. 6: The administration is trying to act as though this is really just a treaty about international arms trade between nation states, but there’s no doubt – as was the case back over a decade ago – that the real agenda here is domestic firearms control. After the treaty is approved and it comes into force, you will find out that it … requires the Congress to adopt some measure that restricts ownership of firearms. The administration knows it cannot obtain this kind of legislation purely in a domestic context. … They will use an international agreement as an excuse to get domestically what they couldn’t otherwise.

That’s Bolton’s opinion. The fact is that a provision in the resolution’s preamble – included at the request of the U.S. – explicitly recognizes the right of nations to regulate gun sales and ownership within their borders, including through their constitutions:

UN General Assembly Resolution A/C.1/64/L.38/Rev.1, Oct. 28: Acknowledging also the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory…

Another provision acknowledges that countries have a right to arms for "self-defence and security needs and in order to participate in peace support operations."

Also, two weeks before the General Assembly voted on the measure, Secretary of State Clinton stated a key condition of U.S. approval and made sure the caveat made it into the resolution: The 2012 conference must make its decisions by "consensus," she said. In practical terms, that means every country has veto power on the negotiated agreement, and it won’t go into effect without the approval of all. In short, no treaty will take effect if the U.S. does not agree.

Despite widespread claims like this one, we’ve seen little or no evidence that the Obama administration is doing much to regulate guns or gun ownership. As a candidate Obama did say that he favored reinstating the "assault weapons ban" and closing the "gun show loophole" (which allows some gun buyers to avoid background checks), while the NRA stirred the fears of gun rights advocates. But he also said he believes the Second Amendment creates an individual right to bear arms, and that he would "protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns."

Furthermore, since taking office, Obama has not pushed any of his promised gun control measures. Asked about assault weapons at a press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in the spring, he said:

Obama, April 16: I think none of us are under any illusion that reinstating that ban would be easy. And so, what we’ve focused on is how we can improve our enforcement of existing laws. …

The only piece of gun legislation he has signed has been an expansion, not a contraction, of gun owners’ rights: In May, the president signed credit card legislation that included a provision allowing loaded and concealed weapons in national parks.

That hasn’t stopped gun rights advocates from believing that Obama is going to implement sweeping anti-firearms policies. Just since he’s been in office, we’ve been asked if Obama was raising the tax on ammunition by 500 percent (no), if he was dropping the program that allows commercial pilots to carry guns (no), if the "Obama regime" was going to require a federal license to own a handgun (no, again), and whether he was behind a move to tax guns and require owners to report their weapons on their federal income tax forms for 2009 (no – that bill died before Obama was even a U.S. senator).

Nevertheless, a Gallup poll in October found that 41 percent of all Americans and 52 percent of gun owners believe that Obama will try to ban the sale of guns. And people are acting on these beliefs: A run on ammunition has created shortages for sport shooters, and FBI background checks, required of most would-be gun purchasers, were up 25 percent in the first five months of 2009 compared with a year earlier.

These claims may keep coming, but they will continue to be unfounded — until and unless Obama takes real steps to regulate firearms, which so far he has not.

-Viveca Novak

Sources

Cam & Company. NRANews. 6 Nov 2009.

Foster, Mary. "Ammo Getting Scarce as Gun Owners Load Up." Associated Press. 24 Sep 2009.

Daly, Matthew. "Govt: Guns barred from national parks until Feb." Associated Press. 22 May 2009.

Newport, Frank. "Many Gun Owners Think Obama Will Try to Ban Gun Sales." Gallup.com. 20 Oct 2009.

"Resolution 61/89: Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms." United Nations General Assembly. 18 Dec 2006.

"Resolution 63/389: Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms." United Nations General Assembly. 23 Dec 2008.

"Resolution A/C.1/64/L.38/REV.1: Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms." United Nations General Assembly. 28 Oct 2009.

"Arms Trade Treaty, ‘Nuclear-Weapon-Free World,’ Outer Space Arms Race Among Issues, as General Assembly Adopts 54 First Committee Texts." United Nations General Assembly Department of Public Information. 6 Dec 2006.

"General Assembly Ends Main Part of Sixty-Third Session, Adopting Texts on Human Resources Management, New System for United Nations Administration of Justice."  United Nations General Assembly Department of Public Information. 23 Dec 2008.

"Sending Six Drafts to General Assembly, First Committee Calls for International Day for World Free of Nuclear Weapons, Conference on Arms Trade Treaty in 2012." United Nations General Assembly Department of Public Information. 30 Oct 2009.

"U.S. Support for the Arms Trade Treaty". Remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. 14 Oct 2009.

Mohammed, Arshad. "U.S. reverses stance on treaty to regulate arms trade." Reuters. 14 Oct 2009.

Supreme Court of the United States. District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008). 26 Jun 2008.

Brown, Marjorie Ann. "The United Nations and ‘Gun Control‘." Congressional Research Service Report to Congress. 7 April 2005.