There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. ~James Madison, speech at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788.
The Obama administration is actively engaged in negotiations to finalize details for a new global agreement premised to fight "terrorism," "insurgency" and "international crime syndicates." As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon describes its purpose, "Our goal is clear: a robust and legally binding Arms Trade Treaty that will have a real impact on the lives of those millions of people suffering from consequences of armed conflict, repression and armed violence... It is ambitious, but it is achievable."
Under the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. originally voted against a resolution that began the process in 2006. However, the current administration reversed that policy, and strongly supports its enactment. In January 2010, U.S. representatives joined with those of 152 other countries in endorsing a U.N. Arms Treaty Resolution to draft a blueprint for enactment in 2012. This activity is planned to be completed by July 27, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged to push hard for Senate ratification. Previously led by the United Kingdom, there can be no doubt that the U.N.'s 193-member General Assembly will approve it.
Foreign ministers of the U.K., France, Germany and Sweden want the treaty to cover all types of conventional weapons, notably including small arms and light weapons, all types of munitions and related technologies. They also advocate that it include strong provisions governing human rights, international humanitarian law and sustainable development.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Internal Security and Nonproliferation, Thomas Countryman, has stated that the Obama administration does not support regulation of ammunition, but only wants to make it more difficult to "conduct illicit, illegal and destabilizing transfers of arms." In addition, a press release issued by the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs says that "The outcome will not seek to prohibit citizens of any country from possessing firearms or to interfere with the legal trade in small arms and light weapons."
Such statements have many very strong skeptics, both inside and outside Congress. One reason, among many, is that Iran, a country that is one of the world's worst human rights violators, yet often chaired the U.N. Human Rights Council...yes Iran, arms supplier to many of America's most determined adversaries... was selected for a top Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) planning conference position. The members, apparently including U.S. representatives, authorized this selection shortly after the same U.N. found the very same Iran guilty of transferring guns and bombs to the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad who is presently slaughtering thousands of its own citizens. Meanwhile, the U.N., America included, purporting to be distraught about illicit, illegal and destabilizing transfers of arms, watches in the wings as these tragedies unfold. Of course, they're very busy. Those arms control planning conferences require a lot of attention.
On June 29, 130 Republican House members sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary Clinton arguing that the proposed treaty infringes on the "fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms." The letter charges that "...the U.N.'s actions to date indicate that the ATT is likely to pose significant threats to our national security, foreign policy, and economic interests as well as our constitutional rights." The lawmakers adamantly insist that the U.S. government has no right to support a treaty that violates the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Democrats have accused Republicans of making this a political issue, maintaining that the treaty poses no Second Amendment threat. Others, such as former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, caution gun owners to take this initiative seriously. He believes that the U.N. "is trying to act as though this is really just a treaty about international arms trade between nation states, but there is no doubt that the real agenda here is domestic firearms control."
So let's review some recent history and see if gun owners and other Second Amendment defenders might have very good reasons to take issue with this treaty. Actually, we don't have to look back very far at all.
Consider the Fast and Furious debacle, an operation that was represented to be all about targeting bad guys who are committing violent crimes on both sides of our border with Mexico. There can be no remaining doubt that the program was really aimed at border gun shops and their right to conduct legal civilian firearms sales.
And after the 2010 Republican House cleaning dashed President Obama's dream of a carbon cap-and-trade program, he wasted no time finding a way to circumvent that pesky obstacle. His EPA is gleefully pursuing that same anti-fossil energy agenda. Meanwhile, Congress sits idly by and allows this breach of its constitutional responsibility established by separation of powers to continue.
William Perugino is active in local and regional politics and can be reached at email@example.com.