Some 130 lawmakers sent President Obama a letter on Monday expressing their opposition to a pending arms trade treaty if it impinges on gun rights and U.S. sovereignty in any way.
The United Nations this week begins a month-long process of crafting a long-delayed treaty to create international standards for importing and exporting conventional weapons. Proponents say the treaty would bring much of the rest of the world in line with U.S. standards without affecting domestic sales, but gun enthusiasts are worried.
“The UN's actions to date indicate that the ATT [United Nations Arms Trade Treaty] is likely to pose significant threats to our national security, foreign policy, and economic interests as well as our constitutional rights,” reads the letter, which was spearheaded by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.). “The U.S. must establish firm red lines for the ATT and state unequivocally that it will oppose the ATT if it infringes on our rights or threatens our ability to defend our interests.”
Specifically, the letter demands that the treaty exclude small arms and ammunition and recognize an individual right to personal self-defense.
Treaty champions say the absence of rules for international arms transfers puts U.S. troops at risk and U.S. arms exporters at a disadvantage, while allowing rogue arms dealers to ignore U.S.-backed sanctions by hiding in countries with little or no legal authority over arms sales. They add that small arms are responsible for most civilian deaths in conflicts around the world, and should be covered along with ammunition for the treaty to be of use.
“What happens is arms dealers ... can hang out and do their operations in countries with weak laws and continue to trade with sanctioned countries or terrorists with impunity,” Scott Stedjan, a senior policy adviser to Oxfam America, told The Hill last month.
“The U.S. standard would be so much higher that it would have no impact on U.S. laws. That's where I disagree with people who claim it would violate the 2nd Amendment,” he said.
The National Rifle Association for its part applauded the letter.
“Any international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that in any way, shape or form affects the constitutional rights of American gun owners is unacceptable,” Chris Cox, execuctive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement. “International organizations and foreign governments do not have the right to restrict the fundamental freedoms handed down to us from our Founding Fathers.”