Are the Negotiations over a “Small Arms Treaty” in the U.S. Interests?
You have heard a lot about the Obama administration about to sign a “Small Arms Treaty” under UN auspices that would, allegedly, trump your 2nd Amendment rights, subject the United States to a “one world UN administered government”, or that American citizens will wake up one day and “find that they must turn all of their arms over to the government”.
All are false, of course, but enjoy considerable currency on the rapidly expanding right wing blogs and sites. I receive many such missives, all from folks who haven’t bothered to take the time to do even the most elementary research on this—all of which takes, thanks to Google, not more than 10 seconds.
Still, that doesn’t mean that such a UN agreement on regulating the global transfers of armaments is in our interest. The Obama administration turned over years of US refusal to participate in such discussions, agreeing to join in the UN-sponsored negotiations on such a treaty this month. The proposed treaty is sponsored by key American allies, including the UK, Australia and Japan. It is fervently opposed by Russia, China, Cuba and Pakistan because of strong human rights language and restrictions on ammunition transfers (the US also opposes the latter). Yes, kind of odd that we had been at odds with London and Tokyo on this, but shared opposition with Moscow and Beijing!
US hesitance to join in these discussions was based on several factors. First, the U.S. is the world’s major arms exporter, and that is a $55 billion business (40% of the world’s total trade). Our arms exports are a significant plus in our negative global trade balance. More importantly, American provision of armaments to countries enables Washington to exert some influence over potentially antagonistic nations. Indeed, the overwhelming percentage of our arms shipments abroad go to countries like Israel and Egypt.
The treaty would likely bar exports to countries, such as Syria, where there are human rights concerns. It would require a risk assessment before such a transfer could be made. That is designed to keep the arms out of what the NYT calls “unscrupulous regimes, militants and criminals”. It would include a controversial ammunition control provision, something that the U.S. feels would be difficult to enforce.
Should the U.S. sign on to such a Treaty if an agreement is reached? I am not sure, but will await the outcome of the negotiations. My main concerns are that the Treaty would be very difficult to enforce, would contain very ambiguous language, and would in the end not halt arms transfers to such odious regimes as that in the Congo, Sudan, Syria, etc.
But let me make a few points clear. First, even if the U.S. signed the Treaty, it would have no effect until the American Senate approved it, something I think would be very difficult. Second, the proposed treaty would have NO impact on domestic arms sales and in no way impacts anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights. Finally, the Treaty, pushed by our major allies and opposed by such countries as China and Russia, would only prohibit the illicit transfers of small arms.
Much to debate here and I am still leaning against ratification of such a treaty for the reasons stated above. I would welcome a vigorous debate on this topic, but please spare me the idiotic nonsense on this treaty spewing from some ideologically oriented sites.
- Tyrus W. Cobb