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Rumor Control: U.N. ATT and POA, Bad but Different

Friday, September 21, 2012

The latest rumor making its way through the darker corners of the internet is an inaccurate spin on the U.N.'s never-ending mission to disarm the American people. The rumors vary, but some have wrongly claimed that the U.S. has secretly adopted a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, subjecting Americans to the schemes of U.N. gun controllers.

The confusion stems from a misunderstanding of the differences between July's month-long U.N. Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the Second Review Conference for the U.N. Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (POA) that took place August 27 through September 7. The ATT and POA, while having many of the same anti-gun supporters and objectives, are two distinct U.N. initiatives.

The ATT would be a legally binding treaty that would require parties to the treaty to adhere to the treaty's provisions, many of which (as proposed in July) are incompatible with our Second Amendment rights. For the treaty to be ratified it would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote in the U.S. Senate. During the July ATT conference, NRA conducted a successful campaign to stop the treaty. The treaty has been shelved for the moment, but there have been attempts to revive it.

The POA, on the other hand, is an attempt to create a voluntary international set of standards for the control of small arms. Under the program, states are encouraged to adopt these controls domestically and to report on their progress. Although many of the standards proposed in the POA process conflict with the rights of gun owners, the U.S. has participated in the discussions. However, no domestic legislation has been passed as a result. The POA is not an extension or alternative to the ATT.

Rumor mongers have treated the continued participation of the U.S. in the POA process as evidence that the U.S. has adopted the ATT or another mandatory U.N. gun control program. Continued participation in the POA is misguided and a long-term threat to gun owners, but is not connected to the signing or ratification of the ATT.

Some confusion regarding the ATT and POA is understandable, considering the highly bureaucratic nature of U.N. activities. However, some of the writers have presented misinformation about the NRA's efforts to combat U.N. gun control, with one writer claiming that the U.N. gun control plans have "flown under the radar of most gun rights groups."

In fact, the NRA has been deeply engaged in fighting the U.N.'s civilian disarmament efforts since 1995. At the U.N. Conference on the ATT in July, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre addressed the conference on behalf of gun owners, as he did the year before during the ATT's Third Preparatory Committee session. The NRA was integral in organizing a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlining a majority of U.S. senators' opposition to a treaty encompassing civilian arms. We also helped organize a similar letter from the House of Representatives, and successfully urged thousands of gun owners to contact their elected officials. And the NRA has kept gun owners updated on these developments with numerous articles and alert items, including a September 7 item summarizing the recent POA conference.

The civilian disarmament crowd certainly recognizes NRA's efforts in thwarting the U.N. A recent article for Foreign Policy lamented our clout, appearing in several newspapers under the headline, "What NRA Wants Now: Global Domination." Other partisan news outlets and Amnesty International have similarly blamed the NRA for the ATT's July defeat.

A careful reading of the documents produced for the ATT and POA make clear that these U.N. initiatives are aimed at controlling civilian gun ownership. However, thanks to the NRA, informed gun owners and our friends in Congress, such attempts have failed. History has made clear that the U.N. attempts to disarm civilians won't end any time soon, but rest assured that the NRA is working to ensure they do not succeed--and that we will keep America's gun owners informed of every development.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.