NRA Fights for Second Amendment as U.N. Moves Forward on Arms Trade Treaty

Posted on July 13, 2012

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As the U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty entered its second week of negotiations, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre addressed the conference and made the position of the NRA and American gun owners crystal clear: No treaty that includes civilian arms is acceptable.

Here is the text of the speech:

Mr. President, thank you for this brief opportunity to address this conference. I am Wayne LaPierre and for 21 years now, I have served as Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association of America.

The NRA is the largest and most active firearms rights organization in the world, with four million members who represent 100 million law-abiding Americans who own firearms.

On behalf of those 100 million American gun owners, I am here to announce NRA's strong opposition to anti-freedom policies that disregard American citizens' right to self-defense.

No foreign influence has jurisdiction over the freedoms our Founding Fathers guaranteedto us.

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.

For six years, the NRA has closely monitored this effort for an Arms Trade Treaty.

We have watched with increasing concern and, one year ago, I delivered to the Preparatory Committee our objections to including civilian arms in the ATT. I said then … and I will repeat now … that the only way to address NRA's objections is to simply and completely remove civilian firearms from the scope of the treaty.

That is the only solution. On that there will be no compromise. American gun owners will never surrender our Second Amendment freedom. Period.

Our Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment so Americans would never have to live in tyranny.

For any foreign entity to attempt to encroach on that great freedom is offensive to every American who has ever breathed our free air, or who has ever used a firearm to fend off an evil attacker – whether a criminal breaking into their home, or in defense of their family against a tyrant halfway around the world.

Our Second Amendment is freedom's most valuable, most cherished, most irreplaceable idea. History proves it. When you ignore the right of good people to own firearms to protect their freedom, you become the enablers of future tyrants whose regimes will destroy millions and millions of defenseless lives.

Without apology, the NRA wants no part of any treaty that infringes on the precious right of lawful Americans to keep and bear arms.

Let there be no confusion. Any treaty that includes civilian firearms ownership in its scope will be met with the NRA's greatest force of opposition.

Mr. President, there are those who believe that merely excluding civilian firearms from the ATT preamble will be sufficient.

Let me state – in the clearest possible terms – that it is not. A preamble to a treaty has no force of law. We know that, and a strong bipartisan majority of the United States Senate and House of Representatives know it as well.

Any Arms Trade Treaty must be adopted by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate, which has 100 members. Already, 58 Senators have objected to any treaty that includes civilian arms, and a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives also opposes such a treaty.

The NRA represents hundreds of millions of Americans who will never surrender our fundamental firearms freedom to international standards, agreements, or consensus.

America will always stand as a symbol of freedom and the overwhelming force of a free, armed citizenry to protect and preserve it.

On behalf of all NRA members and American gun owners, we are here to announce that we will not tolerate any attack – from any entity or organization whatsoever – on our Constitution or our fundamental, individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Thank you.


To watch the speech,
use this link.

This speech is the culmination of nearly 20 years of NRA involvement in U.N. gun control issues in general, and the push for an Arms Trade Treaty in particular. Until 2009, the U.S. opposed the ATT. The Obama administration changed that position and agreed to move ahead with negotiations.

Proponents of the treaty continue to claim that the treaty will have no impact on American firearms laws.  But, as LaPierre explained in his speech to the conference's "Preparatory Committee" last summer, inclusion of civilian arms would necessitate the imposition of gun registration and owner licensing and vast new record keeping and tracking requirements.

Proposals made at the conference bear out those concerns. Draft language circulated so far contains no recognition of citizens' rights--only the so-called "right of states." And while the language assumes that arms cause conflict, there is no admission that arms in the hands of citizens can be used to resist tyranny or even to prevent crime.  Various provisions also refer to organized crime, to creation of a "national control system" and to regulation of "end users," all implying new domestic controls under the guidance of a permanent U.N. bureaucracy.

Perhaps most important on a practical level is that the current draft's "scope" includes all civilian arms and ammunition. Mexico in particular has advocated this in countless statements to the conference. Mexico even argued briefly that the treaty should include items such as bows, arrows and swords, but quickly backed away from the embarrassing position.

The inclusion of civilian arms in the treaty is a direct threat to the Second Amendment with far-reaching implications. Without the strong opposition of the United States, it is significantly more likely the final treaty will include the firearms that our Second Amendment protects.

Key Facts About the ATT

Gun owners must understand the true threat this treaty poses and also the actions that are required for the treaty to have force in the U.S. The treaty poses a very real threat, and gun owners can maximize our efforts to prevent ratification of the treaty by understanding those threats. Here are answers to some common questions about the treaty process.

When will the treaty be signed?

The U. N. will finish drafting the Arms Trade Treaty in late July. It will then be sent to the U.N. General Assembly for approval. After General Assembly approval (likely this fall), many member states are expected to immediately sign on. But there is no deadline for doing so, no date for signing has been set, and the treaty does not need any particular number of signatories to "pass."

Heads of state, or their designees, can sign international treaties at any time, even years or decades later. However, for political reasons, President Obama might choose not to sign immediately while facing reelection. Also, even if the president were to sign the treaty right away, he is not required to send the treaty to the Senate for ratification at any specific time. Nor is there usually any deadline for ratification. (For example, in 1997, President Clinton signed an anti-gun treaty negotiated through the Organization of American States; the U.S. still hasn't ratified that treaty.)

Currently, 58 senators are
on record in strong opposition to the treaty if it includes civilian firearms, as is widely expected. In addition, as we reported last week, 130 members of the U.S. House have also written to President Obama, expressing similar concerns.

What will be the treaty's effects?

Treaty advocates falsely claim that the treaty will have no impact on national gun laws. Proponents have repeatedly called for the treaty to cover civilian arms and to require national systems of licensing, registration and other restrictions.

The threat to our Second Amendment rights posed by the treaty are real, but the process for ratifying the treaty gives gun owners the time and the ability to block ratification--if we take action to hold our elected officials accountable.

What force would the treaty have under U.S. law if the Senate ratified it?

A treaty could have a severe effect, as described above, but it would not override the Constitution.

Treaties have the same legal standing as laws passed by Congress.  They cannot override the Constitution and they are subject to constitutional challenge.  However, they can override statutes passed prior to ratification of the treaty.

This means any restrictions imposed directly by a U.N. treaty, or indirectly by congressional legislation or executive action to implement a treaty, would have to be challenged on their own merits under the Second Amendment. Obviously, it would be far better to prevent an anti-gun treaty from being signed or ratified in the first place.

Can the President bypass the ratification process?

Strictly speaking, no. But an anti-gun administration could still try to use the treaty to impose gun control in the U.S.

Even if the Senate defeats any effort to ratify the treaty, anti-gun activists in the administration could argue that, under customary international law, the U.S. must implement the treaty's restrictions lest we violate its "object and purpose."

This tactic has been used before. For example, the United States has never ratified the U.N. Law of the Sea treaty, but treats parts of that treaty as binding on the U.S.

The Obama administration could easily take the same approach with respect to an Arms Trade Treaty--for instance, by arguing in court that a narrow interpretation of the Second Amendment is necessary to comply with our obligations under "customary international law."

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