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UN Conference Closes After Marathon Negotiations

Friday, July 27, 2001

The two-week "U.N. Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in all its Aspects" concluded at 6:00 a.m. on the morning of July 21—beyond the originally-scheduled closing date of July 20—after delegates worked through the night to accommodate negotiations over core provisions of the conference`s intended product. That product—a non-binding "Draft Programme of Action"—had been touted by U.N. officials as an effort to try to curtail the "illicit trade in small arms," but the initial "Programme" clearly sought to go well beyond its alleged intent by directing U.N. member countries to restrict all civilian ownership of firearms. The conference opened with a strong warning from U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John R. Bolton that the United States would not support any proposal that included attacks on our Right to Keep and Bear Arms, but other nations spurned U.S. concerns by pressing relentlessly for such provisions.

Throughout the meetings, several revised versions of the "Programme" were released, and all but the final contained provisions that remained unacceptable to U.S. negotiators. Meanwhile, the anti-gun extremists at the U.N. received support for their efforts through the anti-gun members of the "mainstream" media in the U.S. and around the world. The intentional misinformation campaign regarding the intentions of the "Programme" was widespread. The U.N. put out a release that claimed the focus of the Conference was not on "the legal trade, manufacture or ownership" of firearms, and it would "have no effect on the rights of civilians to legally own and bear arms." U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan claimed, "This week`s conference is not meant...to take guns away from their legal owners." But during the conference, Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Jozias van Aartsen stated, "We must further regulate the legal trade in arms," and Seiken Sugiura, Japan`s senior vice minister for foreign affairs, proclaimed, "In our view, it is of utmost importance to build a society where small arms are no longer necessary." And when all was said and done, and the final "Programme" was agreed to, Conference President Camilo Reyes Rodriguez of Colombia stated he was disappointed with the conference`s "inability to agree...on language recognizing the need to establish and retain controls on private ownership" of firearms.

The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), an anti-gun non-governmental organization (NGO) aligned with nearly 200 anti-gun organizations throughout the world, stated it was "particularly concerned that a number of critical commitments have been left out of the final program of action," specifically, "any reference to regulate civilian possession of [firearms]." Clearly disappointed with the outcome of the conference, the global gun-ban brigade refuses to accept defeat. Already, the government of Colombia has announced that it will force another discussion of "small arms" at the U.N. next week! The rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council will be held by Colombia for the month of August, and Colombia`s U.N. mission has decided to devote August 2 to an "open debate" on further efforts to regulate firearms. Please contact the U.S. Department of State to encourage the U.S. delegates to the U.N. to hold fast to the hard-line positions set by Under Secretary Bolton. Contact information for the U.S. Department of State is:

U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
(202)647-4000
E-mail -- Secretary@state.gov

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