WASHINGTON – The National Rifle Association, which is battling a raft of gun control measures on Capitol Hill, also has an international fight on its hands as it gears up to oppose a U.N. treaty designed to restrict the flow of arms to conflict zones.
Negotiations open Monday in New York on the Arms Trade Treaty, which would require countries to determine whether weapons they sell would be used to commit serious human rights violations, terrorism or transnational organized crime. The gun lobby fears that the treaty would be used to regulate civilian weapons. Human rights activists counter that it would reduce the trafficking of weapons, including small arms such as the ubiquitous AK-47 assault rifle, to outlaw regimes and rebel groups engaged in atrocities against civilian populations.
This treaty is a common-sense alignment of the interests of governments, law-abiding citizens and individuals all over the world, who deserve the right to live free from harm, said Michelle Ringuette, chief of campaigns and programs at Amnesty International USA. Any step toward restraining the illicit sale and transfer of weapons used to commit horrific crimes is a good move forward, and the world could use a lot more steps in the direction of ending human rights abuses.
The Obama administration, which has wavered on the treaty, signaled Friday that it was willing to support the accord. The United States is steadfast in its commitment to achieve a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty that helps address the adverse effects of the international arms trade on global peace and stability, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. We will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment.
The NRA is among the treaty’s most vocal opponents and a founder of the World Forum on Shooting Activities, an international coalition of gun rights activists and gun manufacturers who plan to speak against the treaty.
What we really object to is the inclusion of civilian firearms within the scope of the ATT, said Tom Mason, the group’s executive secretary and a lawyer who has represented the NRA at U.N. meetings. This is a treaty that really needs to address the transfer of large numbers of military weapons that leads to human rights abuses. We have submitted language that you can define what a civilian firearm is.