The Truth About the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

From TTAG contributor GottalovetheUN:

Here’s my interpretation of the draft U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (for what it’s worth I am an attorney, but I don’t practice international law. I practice complex commercial litigation). This treaty is designed to prevent the export of weapons to human rights abusers, which is something that I think we can all agree is a laudable goal (whether this will accomplish that goal is another question entirely) . . .

At its core, this treaty requires that the signing state (e.g., the U.S. federal government) create a “control system” (i.e., bureaucracy) to review the proposed export of weapons to make sure they won’t be used in genocide or other such things. For example, if Colt wanted to sell 10,000 rifles to a warlord in Africa, the newly created government agency would say no. If, instead, Colt wanted to sell a ton of M4s to the French military (all that rail space is perfect for mounting their white flags), the sale would be approved.

I don’t think this concept is a problem from a 2A prospective. The new federal “control system” would only cover exports, which doesn’t affect us. Nothing would stop companies for selling their guns domestically. From an economic prospective, however, requiring government approval for international sales would be a burden on American businesses. The question is whether the regulatory burden is worth it. I’d say no. Countries like the U.S. are not the problem. The problem is countries like Iran, and I doubt we can trust them to properly govern their own exports.

The other thing this treaty requires, and the one thing that could cause a problem from a gun rights prospective, is the requirement that the State “monitor and control, where necessary and feasible, conventional arms covered by this Treaty that transit or transship through territory under its jurisdiction.”

While this requirement doesn’t necessarily mean that firearms in private hands will be tracked, it would require Congress to take some action on the subject, and that is risky. It is one thing to prevent a bill from passing. Here, however, a bill must be passed. So, we are left battling over the terms. This provides gun control advocates the opportunity to try to slip in language that goes beyond the bare minimum required by the treaty.

Overall, while I certainly would like to prevent the transfer of weapons to warlords and terrorist organizations, given that each country is essentially self-regulating under this treaty, I doubt it would have any effect. Add in the uncertainty of the “monitor and control” provision, and I am definitely opposed to the treaty.