There are quite a few reasons to be concerned about the U.N.’s pending Arms Trade Treaty. It poses a number of risks to the Second Amendment and, more broadly, it is based on the completely fallacious belief that all the world’s nations are actually serious about controlling the illicit arms trade. If they were, of course, no treaty would be necessary. What the treaty will end up doing is making the arms trade more dangerous, by giving the world’s dictator states an internationally-recognized right to import and export all the guns they want to.
The advocates of the Treaty can’t help tripping over their own feet. One of their big recent talking points is that Egyptian security forces have in recent weeks used tear gas that they claim was supplied by the U.S. This supposedly shows the necessity of the Treaty, even though the treaty does not include tear gas and there is no likelihood that it will do so. The claim is entirely in line with the tendency of the Treaty’s advocates to treat it as (pun intended) a magic bullet that, if it only it is big and comprehensive enough, will address their every concern.
It’s also, sadly, in line with their tendency to harp on the supposed failings of the U.S. at the expense of the well-attested words and actions of others. The tear gas incident has attracted far more condemnation, for example, than the statement by the Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov in early December that Russia will continue to arm Syria, and will oppose any arms embargo on it. Syria has killed thousands of its own citizens in 2011, and Russia is Syria’s leading arms supplier, to the tune of $4 billion in 2011 alone. Yet it is the U.S. that gets the lion’s share of the attention. One reason why a lot of Americans are concerned about the Treaty is because it tends to be backed by people who blame America first.
And then there is the Second Amendment problem. When it comes to statements that are intended for American audiences, the Treaty advocates claim that it is only about controlling the international arms trade, and that the Treaty will have no “impact on the ability of individuals within the United States to acquire and possess firearms.” But in other contexts, they are a bit less guarded. In India, for example, affiliated NGOs describe the Treaty as contributing to “disarmament.” In major reports, they equate deaths in armed conflict and homicides (which implies that there is no meaningful distinction between international and domestic arms sales) and complain about the “general availability of weapons to civilians.” That’s another reason why a lot of Americans don’t like the treaty.
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the arms trade. One is that lots of nations supply arms to terrorists and dictators as a matter of policy, or because they simply want the money. Another is that many of the world’s nations do not control their own borders, or their own territory, and so are in no position to control the arms trade. Neither of these problems will be addressed by a treaty that, according to its own draft text, is supposed to be “non-discriminatory.” In other words, the treaty is at once supposed to encourage nations to be more discriminatory in their arms exports to other nations, and to be applied without discriminating against anyone. The U.S. is not going to leave the Second Amendment issues aside, but even if it did, the treaty’s internal hypocrisy is an excellent reason to believe that it’s not worth backing.