Retired Maj. Gen. Roger R. Blunt: Setting the record straight on the UN arms trade treaty

The effort to create an international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that would close loopholes terrorists use to arm themselves and kill our troops has been getting some attention recently in the blogosphere and on various mainstream news outlets. Sadly, some of that attention has resulted from misinformation and distortions from the gun lobby about what the ATT would and would not do. 

The potential humanitarian and national security benefits from the ATT are too great to risk having the process derailed by misinformation, especially misinformation spread for fundraising purposes. The record needs to be set straight.

We have international agreements regulating the cross-border sale of iPods and bananas, but we have no global treaties governing the international sale of weapons. The ATT would fix that by becoming the first-ever treaty governing the international trade of conventional weapons. 

The United States has some of the strictest regulations when it comes to the import and export of tanks, attack helicopters, guns, grenades and ammunition, but many countries — especially in the developing world — have little to no regulation. This patchwork system of national laws rewards bad actors by making it easy for them to exploit loopholes. These loopholes are used to arm the terrorists and insurgents killing our troops and warlords who are responsible for untold suffering throughout the developing world.

Since the United States is already widely acknowledged as the gold standard in arms trade regulations, this treaty would have little to no impact on international weapons transfers by the United States and no impact on Second Amendment freedoms. It would also in no way establish a supranational regulatory agency that could in any way violate U.S. sovereignty.  What it would do is maintain our role as a world leader by requiring other countries to meet the example we have already set. 

The CIA has stated that the greatest future threats to U.S. troops and security will likely come from terrorist groups and small bands of guerrilla fighters — fighters who arm themselves through the under-regulated international weapons market.  ATT would play a critical role in preventing regional destabilization, which allows extremism to flourish, and would instead promote economic investment and development in emerging countries.  

A number of generals and admirals, myself included, have joined other U.S. national security experts in arguing that a strong ATT is a vital part of ameliorating these future threats. There is also overwhelming support for the ATT by American and world religious communities including the National Association of Evangelicals, the Vatican, the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches and the World Evangelical Alliance. This treaty would save lives, plain and simple.

But opponents have been trying to muddy the waters by raising unfounded and non-specific Second Amendment concerns to scare their members and raise money. They do this knowing full well that the ATT charter explicitly limits the scope of the ATT to prevent it from having any influence over domestic gun laws or sales within countries. 

The Obama administration has said it will not agree to a treaty that in any way infringes upon our Second Amendment freedoms. And no international convention can ever trump our Constitution.

The National Rifle Association even got an amendment introduced in the Senate recently to block funding for the U.S. delegation to the ATT negotiations if the treaty violates the Second Amendment. Rather than sparking partisan battles, as the NRA had hoped, every Democratic senator supported the amendment and it passed without debate. 

The reason is simple: the ATT has never threatened our Second Amendment rights and would not be ratified if it did. Even Fox News has called out the NRA for not accurately representing this treaty and its lack of effect on domestic gun sales or ownership.

So lest there be any doubt: ATT will have NO impact on Second Amendment rights or U.S. gun laws in any way, shape or form.

Despite these clear facts, in a statement today at the U.N. on the ATT, NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre stated, “We will not stand idly by while international organizations, whether state-based or stateless, attempt to undermine the fundamental liberties that our men and women in uniform have fought so bravely to preserve — and on which our entire American system of government is based.” 

Spreading misinformation and using scare tactics about the ATT does not honor our troops. It puts their lives and the lives of the innocent civilians they are called to protect at risk, all for the sake of political posturing.

The benefits of the treaty are clear. It will slow the flow of arms to those intent on killing our troops, make it harder for warlords to sow seeds of fear and instability, keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists, and have no impact on Second Amendment rights. 

What is not clear is how the NRA and their allies can risk undermining a treaty that would do all of that just to create a controversy that they can use to raise money.

Maj. Gen. Roger R. Blunt (Ret.) commanded the 97th Army Reserve Command and has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. General Blunt is currently on the Board of Directors for the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), a council for U.S. economic investments and development work in Africa.