EDITORIAL: U.N. gun grab flops

International bureaucrats flub their attempt to create arms control treaty

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The United Nations‘ drive to gain control of the international arms trade is a mixed bag. The bad news is that it has the potential to infringe on the legitimate rights of American gun owners. The good news is that the treaty drafting process has been so dysfunctional that whatever emerges has little chance of getting through the U.S. Senate.

The proposed United Nations Arms Transfer Treaty seeks to establish “common international standards for the import, export and transfer” of the billions of dollars of conventional arms traded annually. It would regulate tanks, military vehicles, combat aircraft, warships and missiles.

Any mention of the U.N. and gun control in the same sentence is bound to raise red flags. Not surprisingly, American firearms advocates strongly oppose the agreement. They believe the treaty’s language would be so loose that activist judges or overzealous federal enforcers would find ways to use the agreement to override the Second Amendment. Treaty backers scoff that this would be impossible since the measure applies only to international arms transfers.

Gun owners are right to be wary. The Constitution’s interstate Commerce Clause has been stretched to include all manner of trade that it was not originally intended to cover, and the same logic could be used regarding international commerce. It would not be much of a stretch to suppose activist judges could claim a gun manufactured in the United States that used some foreign components would satisfy a nexus requirement under the treaty. Such an expansive interpretation would be well beyond the stated purpose of the agreement, but that sort of technicality has never stopped determined government regulators.

Another concern is the current fad in liberal legal circles to read international laws, norms and standards into American jurisprudence. A treaty that establishes a framework for limiting, monitoring and reporting arms transfers — which the proposed arms treaty does — could well be applied to U.S. case law by judges enamored with the notion that international agreements somehow reflect a higher state of legal evolution than a musty old document like the Constitution.

Fortunately, the treaty likely won’t get that far. Its drafting committee released the latest language on Tuesday, and it has been watered down significantly. The United States won an important concession to exclude ammunition from the draft, and state-to-state transfers given as aid are also not covered. Left-wing activist groups are annoyed that the treaty is vague and full of loopholes, not the strong, binding agreement they initially sought. There are enough references to human rights issues that rogue states like Syria, North Korea, Iran and Cuba may try to block it.

The draft treaty must also be reviewed, debated, amended and voted on by Friday — a difficult task in itself. If the U.N. manages this, President Obama would have to sign it, which the White House seems poised to do. The treaty wouldn’t be binding on the United States until approved by two-thirds of the Senate. Given the amount of domestic opposition, that’s unlikely. Though it remains to be seen how the final text will turn out, it appears for now that the international gun grabbers aren’t going to get what they want.

The Washington Times

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