Shortly before he was reelected, President Obama proclaimed to the rapturous cheers and applause of his supporters, "We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."
Many at the time wondered exactly what sort of "fundamental transformation" was needed in what was already the most prosperous, peaceful, just, egalitarian, and powerful nation the world has ever known. A simple return to first principles, some would argue, is the better prescription to preserve the country's preeminence in the future.
Nevertheless, taking his cues directly from the anti-gunner's playbook we reported on recently, President Obama last Sunday turned a memorial service for victims of a heinous crime into a platform to call for yet another "transformation," this one in the federal gun laws under which the nation's violent crime rate has fallen to a 42-year low. In a breathtaking display of opportunism and self-centeredness, an event meant to display a nation's mourning and remembrance degenerated into an expression of the president's personal agenda and his vision of a "transformed" America.
As with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who remarked last year that she "would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012," the president found inspiration in the examples of foreign nations. Despite America's falling violent crime rate, the president scolded the nation that gun violence "ought to obsess us" and invoked the United Kingdom and Australia as modeling the correct paradigm. After "just a single mass shooting occurred in those countries," he said, "they … mobilized and they changed …."
Let that sink in for a moment. The President of the United States "honored" America's dead by calling on the nation to model its gun control policies after the very monarchy from which it won its independence. Of course, America's existence as a sovereign country was itself achieved in part through the use of privately-owned firearms and after British authorities had attempted to disarm American colonists. Somewhere, Piers Morgan, to say nothing of King George III, must have felt vindicated by the president's remarks.
A website coincidentally published by the University of Sydney in Australia summarizes the British gun control that the president referenced, with links to relevant provisions of British law. The "right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law," it states. That much is obvious by citing just a few specifics: "Civilians" are not allowed to possess semi-automatic firearms or handguns. Acquisition, possession, or transfer of a firearm or ammunition requires a license, and applicants for such licenses are required "to prove genuine reason to possess a firearm." Each firearm must be registered, and carrying a firearm in public, whether openly or concealed, is prohibited. Firearm licensees, moreover, may only possess "approved" quantities of ammunition. Similar polices apply in Australia. Transformative, in short, would be an understatement.
The extent to which the president seeks international guidance for American gun control became even more evident three days later, when Secretary of State John Kerry signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty on behalf of the Obama administration. Secretary Kerry marked the event by stating, "The United States is proud to have worked with our international partners in order to achieve this important step towards a … more peaceful world, but a world that also lives by international standards and rules."
We have often reported on the dangers posed by the broad and inherently ambiguous language of the Arms Trade Treaty. While it purports to focus on international trade in such items as "[b]attle tanks," "[c]ombat aircraft" and "[w]arships," its inclusion of "small arms and light weapons" is universally understood to encompass ordinary firearms. This is underscored by the treaty's non-binding, preambular reference to "the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership, and use are permitted or protected by law." Needless to say, "battle tanks" and "warships" are nowhere used for "recreational" and "sporting" activities.
On the other hand, while the treaty recognizes the "inherent right of all States to individual or collective self-defence [sic]" (emphasis added), it nowhere acknowledges what the United States Supreme Court called the "central component" of the Second Amendment--the right of individual persons to self-defense.
Among many other things, the treaty establishes factors a participating country would have to consider before authorizing an export of covered arms to another country, including whether the exported arms would "contribute to or undermine peace and security" or the risk of their "being used to commit or facilitate serous acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children …." To mitigate these supposed risks, the exporting state could extract "confidence building measures" from the importing state.
To this end, "Each importing State Party shall take measures to ensure that appropriate and relevant information is provided, upon request, pursuant to its national laws, to the exporting State Party, to assist the exporting State Party in conducting its national risk assessment …. Such measures may include end use or end user documentation."
In other words, even if the United States never ratifies the treaty, it could be subject, as a condition of receiving firearms exported from a participating nation, to a requirement to hand over lists of individual "end users" of such guns. Thus, the stage is set for the United States either to be ostracized as an outlier in the global gun control community or to establish a national registry of firearms imported from other countries, as well as the Americans who eventually own them. Worse, the exporting nation could insist this registry be provided to it for "risk assessment" purposes.
The October 2013 edition of America's First Freedom reports on a draft document known as ISACS (International Small Arms Control Standard) 03.30, produced as part of the U.N.'s efforts to get countries to "voluntarily" adopt gun control. Its standards, not coincidentally, echo those described above with respect to Australia and England. Eventually, the ISACS 03.30 standards could be considered best practices to implement the treaty. As the article notes, "once a critical mass of countries voluntarily adopt the standards, they could attain the status of an international 'norm' and be used to portray the United States as a 'rogue nation' on the subject." The result could be restrictions on America's ability to engage in international trade in firearms and ammunition or even "changes in domestic policy as a result of international pressure to conform."
How real is the danger? Incredibly, while the Obama administration was eager to embrace this global regime, Canada has, for now, declined, citing concerns over how it would affect lawful firearm owners and it possible links to firearm registration (Canada recently abolished a national registry of long guns).
Fortunately, though, members of Congress are already mobilizing in opposition. On Tuesday, Senator James Inhofe (R–Okla.) sent a letter to Secretary Kerry expressing opposition to the signing, while Senator Bob Corker (R–Tenn.) warned the administration that the treaty "raises significant … constitutional questions" and must not be implemented by executive action unless and until the treaty is ratified by the Senate and Congress has passed its own implementing legislation.
We urge you to contact your U.S. Senators and Representative to express your firm opposition to this treaty (you can contact your Senators by phone at (202) 224-3121, and your Representative by phone at (202) 225-3121). Further, we call on the United States Congress to reject this imposition on American sovereignty and its attempt to interpret away the Second Amendment rights of Americans with oppressive international "norms."