U.S. Senate and House Send Letters Saying "NO" to U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

Posted on October 18, 2013

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In October of 2009, at the U.N. General Assembly, the Obama administration reversed the positions of the two previous administrations and voted for the United States to participate in negotiating the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. On September 25, 2013, Obama's designs on international gun control were realized, as Secretary of State John Kerry signed the ATT on behalf of the Obama administration. The NRA strongly opposes this treaty, which clearly jeopardizes the right to keep and bear arms protected by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

A bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate is already on record in opposition to ratification of the ATT. On March 23rd of this year, the Senate adopted an amendment to its FY 2014 Budget Resolution, offered by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), which establishes a deficit-neutral fund for "the purpose of preventing the United States from entering into the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty." This amendment is in addition to the previous efforts of Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) to pass concurrent resolutions opposing the treaty in their respective chambers.

This week, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House released concurrent, bipartisan letters pledging their opposition to ratification of the ATT.

As detailed in his press release, on October 15th, Sen. Moran led a bipartisan group of 50 U.S. Senators, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jim Inhofe, in reiterating to President Obama that the Senate overwhelmingly opposes the ratification of the ATT and will not be bound by its obligations.

"The Administration's recent signing of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty was a direct dismissal of the bipartisan Senate majority that rejects this treaty," Sen. Moran said.  "Throughout this process, it has been disturbing to watch the Administration reverse U.S. policies, abandon its own 'red line' negotiation principles, admit publicly the treaty's dangerous ambiguity, and hastily review the final treaty text.  Today I join my colleagues in upholding the fundamental individual rights of Americans by reiterating our rejection of the ATT.  The Senate will overwhelmingly oppose ratification, and will not be bound by the treaty."

The press release further notes that, in the letter to the president, the Senators outline six reasons why they will not give advice and consent to the treaty and are therefore not bound to uphold the treaty's object and purpose.

"We urge you to notify the treaty depository that the U.S. does not intend to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, and is therefore not bound by its obligations," the 50 Senators wrote to President Obama.

As noted by Senior Research Fellow, Ted Bromund, in a Heritage Foundation blog article, while the Senate has the lead responsibility for treaties, the House must pass any implementing legislation that is necessary to bring a treaty into effect.  Because it has the power of the purse, it is also particularly responsible for funding the implementation of the ATT.  A bipartisan letter, paralleling the one in the Senate and led by Representatives Mike Kelly and Collin Peterson (D–Minn.), has been signed by 181 Members--more than 40 percent of the House.

Rep. Kelly's press release notes that the House letter includes members of House Leadership, such as Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), and Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

Rep. Kelly said in the release, "Today the People's House takes a stand for national sovereignty where the White House failed to do so.  The ATT is a clear threat to the Constitutional rights of all Americans and should never have been signed.  This letter makes it absolutely clear to President Obama and his cabinet that the United States Congress will not support any implementing legislation to give this dangerous treaty the legs it needs to take effect.  We will also oppose any efforts by this administration or future ones to implement or enforce this treaty through executive action.  The liberty of the American people and the independence of the United States are far too sacred to ever be sacrificed at the altar of a dysfunctional global institution like the United Nations.  For the sake of our freedom at home and our strength abroad, this fight must continue."

(The Senate letter can be accessed via Sen. Moran's press release, and the House letter can be accessed via Rep Kelly's press release.)

Once a treaty has been signed, it normally remains available for the Senate to ratify in perpetuity, unless a later president withdraws from it. This means that American gun owners must remain vigilant in ensuring this treaty is never ratified.

NRA applauds those Members of Congress who signed these letters and reaffirmed their commitment to stand by the Second Amendment and America's millions of law-abiding gun owners by opposing the U.N. ATT. The NRA will continue to work with our allies in the Congress to ensure the treaty remains unratified.

But as important as these letters are, they are not the end of the story. As Ted Bromund, concluded in his Heritage Foundation blog article, the State Department accepts under the customary international law of treaties that the U.S. is bound not to violate the "object and purpose" of a signed but unratified treaty. Both Senate and House letters reject this assertion.  Further, the Administration has implied that it can implement the ATT through its existing authorities and without new appropriations. It is therefore incumbent on the Senate and House to reject this claim, hold appropriate hearings on the treaty and the Administration's proposed implementation of it, and prepare the way for this President or a future one to "unsign" the ATT.

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