National Rifle Association vows to fight arms trade treaty at U.N.

UNITED NATIONS Fri Dec 28, 2012 3:00pm EST

David Keene, president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), leads a moment of silence for victims of the December 14 Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, before a news conference in Washington December 21, 2012. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

David Keene, president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), leads a moment of silence for victims of the December 14 Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, before a news conference in Washington December 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The leading U.S. pro-gun group, the National Rifle Association, has vowed to fight a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global arms trade and dismissed suggestions that a recent U.S. school shooting bolstered the case for such a pact.

The U.N. General Assembly voted on Monday to restart negotiations in mid-March on the first international treaty to regulate conventional arms trade after a drafting conference in July collapsed because the U.S. and other nations wanted more time. Washington supported Monday's U.N. vote.

U.S. President Barack Obama has come under intense pressure to tighten domestic gun control laws after the December 14 shooting massacre of 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. His administration has since reiterated its support for a global arms treaty that does not curtail U.S. citizens' rights to own weapons.

Arms control campaigners say one person every minute dies as a result of armed violence and a convention is needed to prevent illicitly traded guns from pouring into conflict zones and fueling wars and atrocities.

In an interview with Reuters, NRA President David Keene said the Newtown massacre has not changed the powerful U.S. gun lobby's position on the treaty. He also made clear that the Obama administration would have a fight on its hands if it brought the treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

"We're as opposed to it today as we were when it first appeared," he said on Thursday. "We do not see anything in terms of the language and the preamble as being any kind of guarantee of the American people's rights under the Second Amendment."

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms. Keene said the pact could require the U.S. government to enact legislation to implement it, which the NRA fears could lead to tighter restrictions on gun ownership.

He added that such a treaty was unlikely to win the two-thirds majority in the U.S. Senate necessary for approval.

"This treaty is as problematic today in terms of ratification in the Senate as it was six months ago or a year ago," Keene said. Earlier this year a majority of senators wrote to Obama urging him to oppose the treaty.

U.N. delegates and gun-control activists say the July treaty negotiations fell apart largely because Obama, fearing attacks from Republican rival Mitt Romney before the November 6 election if his administration was seen as supporting the pact, sought to kick the issue past the U.S. vote.

U.S. officials have denied those allegation.

The NRA claimed credit for the July failure, calling it at the time "a big victory for American gun owners."

NRA IS 'TELLING LIES'

The main reason the arms trade talks are taking place at all is that the United States - the world's biggest arms trader, which accounts for more than 40 percent of global transfers in conventional arms - reversed U.S. policy on the issue after Obama was first elected and decided in 2009 to support a treaty.

Supporters of the treaty accuse the NRA of deceiving the American public about the pact, which they say will have no impact on U.S. domestic gun ownership and would apply only to exports. Last week, Amnesty International launched a campaign to counter what it said were NRA distortions about the treaty.

"The NRA is telling lies about the arms treaty to try to block U.S. government support," Michelle Ringuette of Amnesty International USA said about the campaign. "The NRA's leadership must stop interfering in U.S. foreign policy on behalf of the arms industry."

Jeff Abramson of Control Arms said that as March approaches, "the NRA is going to be challenged in ways it never has before and that can affect the way things go" with the U.S. government.

The draft treaty under discussion specifically excludes arms-related "matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State."

Among its key provisions is a requirement that governments make compliance with human rights norms a condition for foreign arms sales. It would also have states ban arms transfers when there is reason to believe weapons or ammunition might be diverted to problematic recipients or end up on illicit markets.

Keene said the biggest problem with the treaty is that it regulates civilian arms, not just military weapons.

According to the Small Arms Survey, roughly 650 million of the 875 million weapons in the world are in the hands of civilians. That, arms control advocates say, is why any arms trade treaty must regulate both military and civilian weapons.

Keene said the NRA would actively participate in the fight against the arms trade treaty in the run-up to the March negotiations. "We will be involved," he warned, adding that it was not clear if the NRA would address U.N. delegates directly as the group did in July.

The NRA has successfully lobbied members of Congress to stop major new gun restrictions in the United States since the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. It also gives financial backing to pro-gun candidates.

EXPLOSIVE ISSUE

European and other U.N. delegates who support the arms trade treaty told Reuters on condition of anonymity they hoped Newtown would boost support for the convention in the United States, where gun control is an explosive political issue.

"Newtown has opened the debate within the United States on weapons controls in ways that it has not been opened in the past," Abramson said, adding that "the conversation within the U.S. will give the (Obama) administration more leeway."

Keene rejected the idea of bringing the Newtown tragedy into the discussion of an arms trade treaty.

"I find it interesting that some of the folks that advocate the treaty say it would have no impact whatever within the United States but that it needs to be passed to prevent another occurrence of a school shooting such as took place in Newtown," he said. "Both of those positions can't be correct."

Obama administration officials have tried to explain to U.S. opponents of the arms trade pact that the treaty under discussion would not affect domestic gun sales and ownership.

"Our objectives for the ATT (arms trade treaty) have not changed," a U.S. official told Reuters. "We seek a treaty that fights illicit arms trafficking and proliferation, protects the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade, and meets the concerns that we have articulated throughout."

"In particular, we will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to bear arms," the official added.

Supporters of the treaty also worry that major arms producers like Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan and others could seek to render the treaty toothless by including loopholes and making key provisions voluntary, rather than mandatory.

The United States, like all other U.N. member states, can effectively veto the treaty since the negotiations will be conducted on the basis of consensus. That means the treaty must receive unanimous support in order to be approved in March.

But if it fails in March, U.N. delegations can put it to a vote in the 193-nation General Assembly, where diplomats say it would likely secure the required two-thirds majority.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

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Comments (12)
bobber1956 wrote:
They are fighting this so the armed citizens in the US do not have to. And we will, if we have to.

Dec 28, 2012 11:11am EST  --  Report as abuse
Alex77 wrote:
If the NRA acts like the world-wide marketing arm for the weapons industry they must be a “for profit” company not an association. Hope they have not been violating the tax laws all this time as a non-profit association.

Dec 28, 2012 12:30pm EST  --  Report as abuse
What_Me_Worry wrote:
The Constitution of the United States is the “supreme Law of the Land.” Article 6 Clause 2.
President’s Oath of Office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Every member of Congress swore a sacred Oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This is an absolute Right. It doesn’t say only certain kinds of weapons. ALL current gun control laws are unconstitutional unless the Constitution is amended. The ONLY way to change ANY part of the Constitution is through the Amendment process. The Founding Fathers wisely and deliberately made the amendment process difficult so that the Constitution wouldn’t be changed lightly based on whim or what direction the wind blows.
The purpose of the Second Amendment is not only to protect and defend ones self and property, but ALSO to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against “all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
An example of “against all enemies, foreign” would be the fact that there are over 65,000,000 (65 MILLION!) legal gun owners in America; one VERY GOOD REASON why America hasn’t been invaded.
One of the BEST examples of “enemies…domestic” is the “Battle of Athens”, Tennessee in 1946 www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5ut6yPrObw when voter fraud was the cause. Do we still have voter fraud? What about other forms of government tyranny? Another good example would be to defend one’s self against rioters and looters (e.g. Watts in 1965, and New Orleans after Katrina in 2005.)
Gun control isn’t about controlling guns, it’s about controlling people. Look at how well gun control and bans worked for the people of China under Communist Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, or the Russian people under Communist Premier Vladimir Lenin, or the German people under National Socialist Adolf Hitler. Each leader massacred MILLIONS of their own Citizens for political advantage and power.
The age old adages are still true; “Guns don’t kill people, people do”; “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”; “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”
The President and his Congress accomplice can’t constitutionally control or ban any weapon unless it is approved by an amendment to the Constitution. They’ve been successfully violating our constitutional Rights because we have allowed it to happen. “We the People” MUST DEMAND that our elected representatives honor their Oaths and PROTECT our constitutional Rights. Otherwise, we might as well finish shredding our Constitution and kiss our Liberty good-bye.

Dec 28, 2012 1:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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