Conservative senators, including two Democrats, are ratcheting up fears about a treaty the United Nations approved Tuesday to regulate global arm sales to tyrannical regimes. The lawmakers are echoing dubious claims by the National Rifle Association that it would impede gun rights in the United States.
The treaty, which received U.S. support and passed 154-3, would have no effect on domestic gun sales or laws. While it lacks a clear enforcement mechanism, its aim is to crack down on the sale of weapons to countries with poor human rights records — which is why only Iran, North Korea and Syria voted against it.
But the politically charged mix of guns and U.N. action is fertile soil for NRA-fueled paranoia, and pro-gun senators — either concerned about a gun-lobby backlash or supportive of NRA’s broader efforts — are racing to stoke it.“I have great concerns that this treaty can be used to violate the second amendment rights of American citizens, and do not believe we should sign any treaty that infringes on the sovereignty of our country,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said in a statement Wednesday.
“Not only would it violate Texans’ Second Amendment rights, including the right to self-defense, it also raises US sovereignty and national security concerns,” Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said in a statement last month, before the treaty was finalized. “Law-abiding Texans who are in the market for an imported shotgun, pistol, or rifle ought to be very concerned by any future development of this treaty.”
The NRA promised its “greatest force of opposition” to the treaty, which is doomed in the Senate, where 67 votes are required for ratification. Thirty-four senators have signed on to a resolution pledging to kill it. Among them are Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Max Baucus (MT) — the chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, who faces reelection in 2014.
“It’s our job to make sure any Treaty the U.S. enters doesn’t interfere with our sovereign ability to uphold the rights of Americans,” Baucus said in a statement. “The Arms Treaty simply doesn’t include strong enough protections to pass that test, and I won’t support any Treaty that undermines the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Montanans.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott claimed the treaty would lead to an “international gun registry overseen by the bureaucrats at the UN,” a contention that is lacking in evidence.
The treaty’s predictable demise in the Senate exemplifies the gun lobby’s muscle, which it is flexing promiscuously as President Obama proposes new firearm restriction in the United States.