EDITORIAL: The U.N. is coming for your guns

Obama administration is pushing for global arms control

The United Nations is deliberating over a treaty that will place comprehensive limits on the international weapons trade. The language of the draft agreement is so expansive it wouldn’t take an Obama-appointed judge very long to extend the treaty to cover the domestic firearms market as well. If American jurists continue to be enamored by the popular trend to consider international precedence when making U.S. rulings, you can kiss the Second Amendment goodbye.

This week, the U.N. General Assembly began formal discussion of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which seeks to establish “common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.” The scope of the proposed treaty is vast. It covers tanks, military vehicles, aircraft (including drones), ships, submarines, missiles and ammunition. It seeks to regulate arms import, export, transfer, brokering, manufacture under foreign license and technology transfer. The proposed global regulation instructs countries to “take the necessary legislative and administrative measures, to adapt, as necessary, national laws and regulations to implement the obligations of this treaty.”

The George W. Bush administration opposed the treaty when it was first proposed in 2006. However, the Obama administration is giving it high-level support. This has generated legitimate alarm on Capitol Hill. Last week, more than 125 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton registering strong objections about the treaty language being drafted, which they say is “likely to pose significant threats to our national security, foreign policy and economic interests as well as our constitutional rights.” In particular, the members are concerned about an international arms treaty that infringes on “the fundamental, individual right to keep and to bear arms that is protected by the Second Amendment, as well as the right of personal self-defense on which the Second Amendment is based.” They conclude that the ATT “should not cover small arms, light weapons or related material such as firearms ammunitions.”

Arms Trade Treaty backers argue that because the treaty will only regulate international trade, it poses no threat to individual gun rights. That propaganda aside, defenders of the Second Amendment are right to be suspicious. The recent Obamacare debate over the Constitution’s Commerce Clause highlighted that goods and services need not actually cross state lines to be considered “interstate.” Successive Supreme Court rulings have extended the term to any commerce that even indirectly affects interstate markets - which in practice means all commerce. A ratified treaty, with constitutional authority, could be interpreted in a way that any weapon made with foreign components - or that might some day be exported, or that affects the overall arms market - could be said to be part of “international” trade.

There are also concerns that the ATT would be so broad, vague and poorly defined that it could be used as a political tool to obstruct otherwise licit U.S. arms sales and transfers to countries like Israel and the Republic of China (Taiwan). Some backers want the treaty to contain language regarding human rights, international humanitarian law and “sustainable development” that could be applied in ways that frustrate U.S. global strategy and oppose U.S. national interests. The final draft won’t be ready for a vote for several weeks, but even if radical changes are made to it, U.N. gun control is a misfire for America.

The Washington Times

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