THE BLOG
11/25/2013 11:04 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

What Does the New UN Small Arms Treaty Really Say?

Last month the Obama Administration joined 114 other countries and signed the UN Arms Trade Treaty, immediately setting off howls of protest by the NRA and its congressional supporters insisting this was another example of the administration's desire to disarm America and take away everyone's guns. According to Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) the treaty undermines Second Amendment guarantees because it does not define gun ownership as a fundamental right and requires identification of end users which could result in the registration of all guns.

I have read every word of the treaty, it's not a terribly lengthy document, and I think it would be worthwhile if I explain what the treaty actually says. Not that I'm assuming that my comments will change anyone's mind about the treaty, or the Second Amendment or anything else related to guns. But in all the hysteria that has been drummed up about this document by the NRA and its allies and friends, until now I had never seen the treaty text itself. Now I've read it, so here goes.

The treaty begins with a preamble that "reaffirms the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system." This statement isn't buried in some footnote; it's found at the very beginning of the text. Now please correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't this mean that our government, and not the United Nations, gets to figure out how guns will be handled within the United States?

And what about the question of end users, because here's where the NRA believes there lurks an attempt to create not just a national, but an international registry of all guns. I quote again from the treaty text: "Each State Party shall maintain national records, pursuant to its national laws and regulations, of its issuance of export authorizations or its actual exports of the conventional arms..." Now note what it says about imports: " Each State Party is encouraged to include in those records: the quantity, value, model/type, authorized international transfers of conventional arms actually transferred, details of exporting State(s), importing State(s), transit and trans-shipment State(s), and end users, as appropriate."

This is in fact no different than what U.S. exporters and importers must now do to comply with State Department and ATF regulations on export and import of small arms. These regulations are required to be followed by anyone who imports guns into the United States. But the operative word in the Treaty is is encouraged; not required as in the case of U.S. law. Signatories to this treaty are not bound by any requirements to either compile lists of import end-users (which U.S. importers already compile) or deliver such lists to any international body. The only required record-keeping involves the destination of exports, and correct me if I'm wrong, but only American citizens possess Second Amendment guarantees.

The NRA, the Washington Times, and all the other pro-gun stalwarts who make a living by ginning up the fears of gun owners every time someone says anything even remotely connected to gun control might do us a favor and stop concocting arguments out of whole cloth. It's a mantra in the pro-gun community that since Obama's a liberal he must hate guns. But maybe it's time to stop worrying about Obama and start thinking about how to convince rational and reasonable people that responsible gun ownership is the American way. I'm a gun owner and I'm a lot more afraid of arguments based on emotions and fears than any discussion based on facts. Let's agree to disagree about the Small Arms Treaty as long as we know what it really says.