Posted: 07/26/2012 at 12:19pm
UN Treaty Endangering the Right to Bear Arms?
WASHINGTON -- The Syrian government is continuing to turn its military might on its own people, killing thousands.
But many world leaders believe a set of transparent global standards regulating the international trade of arms would help curb the violence.
The goal is to keep nations from selling arms to rogue states, criminals, and terrorists.
"Really what we're looking for is a very simple golden rule in this treaty that specifies, if there's reason to believe that arms traded internationally would be used to commit human rights violations, then those are not legitimate contracts, those should be barred under international law," Scott Edwards, with Amnesty International, explained.
The push for an international arms trade treaty began a decade ago. In 2006, the United States under President George W. Bush voted against creating the treaty -- a decision the Obama administration reversed.
But many people in the United States still have concerns about the treaty. American gun owners say civilian firearms must be excluded.
The National Rifle Association also worries that including those weapons would give the U.N. gun control bureaucratic authority in the U.S. and weaken the American right to bear arms.
"We don't want other countries to dictate what our freedoms are. We have a Second Amendment right in the United States," NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said. "We don't want despotic regimes of Syria and Iran and North Korea telling us how to run our country."
Arulanandam said the inclusion of civilian firearms in the treaty would make it more difficult for hunters and sportsmen to travel internationally, could create a gun registration in the United States, and even ban certain guns.
The U.S. State Department has assured Americans the treaty will not handicap the "right of self defense" and has stated "the Second Amendment must be upheld."
Congress is applying heat to the administration on the issue. Some 130 members of the House wrote President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying the treaty "should not cover small arms, light weapons, or related material, such as firearms ammunition."
The U.S. Senate has the power to ratify treaties. A two-thirds vote is needed for approval.
Right now, a bipartisan majority of senators have expressed their concerns about it. Fifty-eight senators have written a letter pledging to oppose the treaty as long as civilian firearms are included.
"We have this precious freedom, and we will do whatever we can to preserve it," Arulanandam said.
Edwards and other strong proponents of the treaty say any watering down of the language will make it as good as null. That includes exceptions for national security.
"I'm sure Russia, if it were bound by this treaty, would be happy to site national security interests as a way to arm the Syrian regime," Edwards said. "We don't need any holes in this treaty. We need a strong bullet proof arms trade treaty."
Negotiations at the U.N. on the language of the treaty are scheduled to wrap up Friday.