There are currently no international laws or treaties regulating the international sale of conventional weapons. You read that right. There is more international oversight of the sale of bananas and iPods than grenade launchers and AK-47s. As a result, the bullets killing our troops in Afghanistan and the weapons used by warlords to commit genocide in Africa are purchased on the black and grey international weapons markets that thrive in this unregulated environment. Thankfully, all of that is about to change -- at least, we hope.
This July, the nations of the world are gathering in NYC to negotiate the first ever Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which would set up a global framework to regulate the international weapons trade and close loopholes exploited by evil doers around the world. A robust ATT would help prevent weapons sales to states that are human rights violators, and create uniform laws and transparency that would put a serious squeeze on black market arms dealers who supply weapons to terrorists.
As a result, a large and ideologically diverse coalition has emerged to support this treaty. Some of the strongest voices come from the faith community: The National Association of Evangelicals and National Council of Churches have joined the Vatican and the World Evangelical Alliance to call for a robust ATT. Last spring American Values Network organized Christians in 48 states from over 3,500 mostly evangelical congregations to join in a day of prayer and fasting for a successful ATT. And numerous services and prayer rallies are being organized around the upcoming July negotiations.
Joining this chorus of the faithful have been a number of retired generals and admirals who are echoing the Pentagon's assessment that the greatest future threats to America's troops and security will likely come from terrorist groups and small bands of guerrilla fighters -- currently arming themselves through the under-regulated international weapons market.
Last but not least are the humanitarian organizations like Oxfam, Amnesty International, Arms Control Association and countless others who toil non-stop to be a voice for the voiceless and make our world a safer and more just place. Yesterday, more than 50 groups from this combined faith, security, and humanitarian coalition submitted a letter to President Obama thanking him for his Administration's leadership on this issue, highlighting the treaty priorities, and encouraging the President to "seize the historic opportunity to negotiate a robust, bullet-proof Arms Trade Treaty."
You'd think there would be universal support for a treaty that will help stem the flow of weapons and ammunition to terrorists, warlords, pirates and dictators -- that would help save American lives and reduce atrocities around the globe. But if so, you haven't met the NRA and Heritage Foundation.
Sadly, for these groups, politics and money are more important than protecting our troops, patriotism and moral decency. And in the ATT, they see a way to raise money by telling their base that Obama and the UN are coming to take your guns. They know full well that 1) the ATT charter forbids it from having any impact on domestic gun laws or sales, 2) the Obama Administration has said it would oppose any treaty that threatens the Second Amendment, and 3) no international laws trump our Constitution. But what are facts when money is to be made and political muscles can be flexed?
And so yesterday, the NRA got an amendment introduced in the Senate to forbid the U.S. from participating in negotiations of an Arms Trade Treaty that would violate the Second Amendment. But rather than fighting the amendment as the NRA had hoped, supporters rallied every Democrat to endorse the NRA amendment, sending a clear message that the ATT is no threat to the Second Amendment, and the Second Amendment is no threat to the ATT.
Bishop Elias Taban, a former child soldier who now heads the evangelical churches of Sudan, has said this treaty would be an "answered prayer" for him and his people. It would be a disgrace if a fundraising ploy by the NRA and Heritage somehow prevented Bishop Taban's prayer from being answered.
You may not have known what the ATT was before reading this piece, but now you know what it is and what is at stake. Spread the word in your communities and congregations. Check back on American Values Network's ATT page over the next few weeks to learn more about the Day of Prayer and Fasting and other events leading up to the July negotiations. And pray that our leaders will put our moral interests over the special interests and lead the world toward a robust ATT with strong humanitarian protections that will create a brighter future for all of God's children.