International Law Expert Chuck Norris Is (Shockingly) Wrong About UN Arms Treaty

August 25, 2011 5:00 p.m.

He’s battled Bruce Lee and kicked his way through the Southwest as Walker, Texas Ranger, but now Chuck Norris has a new role as a guest columnist for Politico.

“Columnist” might be laying it on a little thick, in fact, since “wacky conspiracy theorist” matches the tone of his latest piece more closely.

Wednesday, Politico ran a column by Norris attacking the UN’s as-yet-unfinished Arms Trade Treaty. The piece alleged that the Obama administration is trying to sneak in gun control schemes “under the radar.” A key component of that, Norris wrote, could well be the UN Arms Trade Treaty.

“The vast majority of UN diplomats,” Norris claimed, “believe that an arms trade treaty must reach into your gun safe and mine. There is little question this treaty would require additional restrictions on our Second Amendment rights.”

There’s one problem with that statement: it’s about as accurate as a joke from the meme-friendly website, Chuck Norris Facts.The main reason it’s not true is that the US insisted the treaty’s base document stress that that it is “the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms
and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on
private ownership, exclusively within their territory.”

The treaty, then, is limited to international arms transfers. It’s about limiting the flow of illegal arms, especially into war zones and countries riven by gang violence. The UN diplomats aren’t thinking about reaching into Chuck Norris’ gun safe, but into the truckload of AK-47s being clandestinely ferreted into, say, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Indeed, in some ways the UN diplomats pretty much agree with Norris. At one point in his article Norris notes the following:

“What’s ironic is that the United States already has the world’s pre-eminent system for regulation of true military arms sales. If the rest of the world merely adopted the U.S. regulatory regime, there would be no need for an Arms Trade Treaty.
But rather than harmonize other nations’ patchy regulations on arms transfers, the diplomatic crowd would rather force Washington to hew to its utopian vision of global disarmament.”

What’s actually ironic is that the treaty basically aims to do exactly what Norris says he wishes it would: to bring “other nations’ patchy regulations” in line with the regulatory regime of the US. Jeff Abramson, the coordinator of the pro-treaty Control Arms Secretariat, told TPM, “[Second Amendment-citing] critics say the sky will fall, but the things the treaty suggests already exist in the US. It’s hard to see where the US would need to make changes to its existing national laws.”

Another factor the Norris line overlooks is that the writing of the treaty proceeds on a consensus basis. Even if one supposes the Obama administration is okay with UN stormtroopers rappelling down from black helicopters to wrench rifles out of citizens’ hands, there are quite a number of other nations who wouldn’t be too thrilled. Pakistan, for instance, is known for blocking progress on other arms treaties that have proceeded by consensus. India, Cuba and Zimbabwe are notable grumblers too. The result of these unlikely alliances is that the only result that can credibly be reached is the lowest-hanging fruit.

Additionally, Norris would likely be relieved to know that an oft-cited “weakness” of treaties such as this one is that there’s no enforcement mechanism. The concept paper for the treaty states that disputes “should be settled by negotiations between the relevant parties.”

Finally, as Norris himself notes, there’s the little matter of the treaty passing the U.S. Senate. Even if the White House signs the treaty, the Constitution demands that the Senate ratify it by a 2/3 majority. With the chamber’s composition as it currently is, and several Democratic Senators vulnerable to 30 second TV spots crying, “They took our guns!” the chance of a smooth passage is minimal.

Second Amendment hawks really don’t have to worry about the UN seizing their guns. And that’s truer than a “Chuck Norris Fact“.

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