Understanding basic U.S. constitutional law and knowing the facts before casting a vote are core responsibilities of our Senators. Yet fifty-three of them chose to score points with the National Rifle Association instead of doing their jobs.
In contrast, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt,), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced an amendment which reinforced the legal fact that treaties cannot override the Constitution and that the President cannot sign treaties that undermine our fundamental rights. It passed unanimously on a voice vote, revealing that in the absence of a roll call lawmakers know how to do the right thing.
The Arms Trade Treaty would provide a global solution to the rogue and irresponsible trade of weapons across borders. It would require countries to adopt national control systems that stop the pervasive sale of arms to war criminals or rogue actors.
The United States has some of the toughest laws on the export of arms and has brought many illegal arms dealers, like Viktor Bout, to justice. Yet, many other countries have no controls at all. Lax controls coupled with weak enforcement allows dealers to find safe havens and transfer arms to entities that use them on our troops, our allies, and civilians. Without an Arms Trade Treaty, the poorly-regulated global trade in arms and ammunition will continue to threaten the security and rights of millions of people around the world, exposing them to death, rape, assault, and displacement.
Sen. Inhofe’s amendment is a disservice to the American public and the millions of people suffering from armed violence every day. The Arms Trade Treaty will save lives. Responsible Senators should follow Leahy’s lead and stand up to the misinformation the National Rifle Association is spreading in Congress. It is time to support a strong Arms Trade Treaty and make the world a safer place.
Offenheiser is president of Oxfam America.