At the 148th Annual Meetings of NRA members, I had the distinct honor of hosting President Donald Trump at NRA-ILA’s Leadership Forum. During his address to the nearly 15,000 NRA members in attendance and the many more who were watching on television, the president took the historic step of “unsigning” the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
If the treaty’s proponents had no intention of limiting American gun ownership, why resist such a limitation to the text of the treaty?
Officially joined by the United States in 2013 by former Secretary of State John Kerry, the ATT represented the boldest step yet taken by international gun-ban advocates. By announcing that he will officially withdraw the United States from the treaty, President Trump made clear he would not abdicate control over the rights of law-abiding gun owners to foreign bureaucrats. He then signed—in front of all in attendance—a formal letter to the U.S. Senate requesting that it halt the ratification process and return the treaty to the Oval Office, where he would properly “dispose” of it.
The NRA has long drawn attention to the danger this treaty posed to law-abiding American gun owners. Our complaints have focused on the treaty’s framework for an international gun registry, its ability to be amended without the consensus of all parties, and its proponents’ repeated refusals to clarify that it has no effect on the possession of small arms by civilians in the United States.
The treaty urged recordkeeping of end users, directing importing countries to provide information to an exporting country regarding arms transfers—which included “end use or end user documentation” for a “minimum of 10 years.” Each country is to “take measures, pursuant to its national laws, to regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction for conventional arms.” Data kept on the end users of imported firearms is a de facto registry of law-abiding firearm owners. And, participating countries could have been required to share this information—effectively laying the groundwork for international gun registration.
While the potential creation of an international gun registry should have been reason enough for its rejection by the United States, the most dangerous aspect of the treaty was its ease of being amended. While many treaties require full consensus of the parties for an amendment, the ATT only required that the parties make “every effort to achieve consensus on each amendment.” But, rather than requiring consensus, the treaty required only three-quarters of the parties to amend the treaty—making effectively limitless the future danger of the treaty to American gun owners.
Changes to the treaty that are contrary to our rights already have been adopted. At a treaty conference last year, proponents of the treaty “welcome[ed]” several living documents into the ATT. One of these documents was the International Small Arms Control Standards (ISACS).
Purporting to set the standards for “National Regulation of Civilian Access to Small Arms and Light Weapons,” a portion of ISACS creates a means to almost entirely limit civilian access to small arms. It reads like a gun control advocate’s wish list with everything from gun bans to “may-issue” gun licensing.
While incorporation of the ISACS into the ATT was alarming, it also was not entirely unpredictable. As with every anti-firearm un initiative, our concerns are never limited to what is in it now, but with what it will become and how it will be used by a future U.S. administration—especially one seeking international justification for a gun control agenda.
Perhaps the easiest way to understand the future danger the ATT posed to U.S. gun owners is the complete refusal by treaty proponents to limit its application to civilian arms. The NRA and other opponents of the treaty repeatedly asked for a carve-out in the treaty, yet those requests were flatly denied. If the treaty’s proponents had no intention of limiting American gun ownership, why resist such a limitation to the text of the treaty?
Instead, the treaty included language in its preamble that treaty parties be “mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law.” A careful read will show that the use of arms for individual and collective defense is notably missing from this statement. And, this aspirational statement creates no real limitation on any action undertaken pursuant to the treaty.
Please join me in thanking President Trump for protecting our firearms freedom by withdrawing the United States from this terrible treaty and ensuring that the rights of law-abiding American gun owners aren’t surrendered to the anti-gun whims of foreign bureaucrats.