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NRA goes up against UN over Arms Trade Treaty

Published time: December 28, 2012 18:22
Edited time: December 28, 2012 22:22
John Moore / Getty Images / AFP

John Moore / Getty Images / AFP

The United Nations agreed on Monday to hold discussions next year regarding an international arms treaty, but the National Rifle Association says they are all set to step in and make sure the measure isn’t approved.

The UN has put aside 10 days in March 2013 to negotiate terms of the Arms Trade Treaty, an international agreement that would forbid member states from exporting firearms to countries either under an arms embargo or in instances where exporting weapons would facilitate “the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes” or other violations of humanitarian law. Only three days after the General Assembly agreed to hold discussions in the new year, though, the NRA announced that it intends on keeping any such measure from being enacted.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, NRA President David Keene said, "We're as opposed to it today as we were when it first appeared.”

"We do not see anything in terms of the language and the preamble as being any kind of guarantee of the American people's rights under the Second Amendment,” Keene said.

The Obama White House insists that the proposed arms treaty would not impact the sale of arms within the United States in its current form, but would instead require other UN member states to sign on to restrictions on par with America’s own regulations regarding the export of guns. The NRA, however, is adamant with their claims that any changes to gun laws, federal or international, would pose a problem to the constitutional right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

Considered by-and-large to be the most powerful gun lobby in America, the NRA could very well influence any attempts at changing firearm policy in the US and, in turn, the world.

“I have not seen anywhere else in the world a gun lobby that has the same level of influence on its own government as the NRA does in the United States,” author Andrew Feinstein explains to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman. “The US buys and sells almost as much weaponry as the rest of the world combined. So what happens in the US is going to have enormous impact on the rest of the world.”

Should any efforts by the NRA hinder an approval of the Arms Trade Treaty, the UN is unlikely to reconvene in the near future to try and introduce international gun laws again. In fact, Dr. Natalie Goldring, a senior research fellow at the Center for Security Studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, tells IPS that the March 2013 conference probably represents the last chance for the UN to reach an Arms Trade Treaty.

“If this conference fails, supporters of an ATT are likely to look outside the UN for the next stage of negotiations, as was the case with the Landmine Treaty,” claims Dr. Goldring.

The IPS adds that all six major arms-exporting countries – China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the United States – voted for the resolution. Even with such strong support, however, an instant approval of the ATT isn’t all that likely. The majority of US senators have already asked President Barack Obama to oppose the treaty, and a single veto from any of those nations would end negotiations.

If the treaty is shot down in March, UN delegations can ask for the 193-nation General Assembly to vote on the ATT at a later date, where a two-thirds majority would be required to enact the bill. Even then, though, the NRA is all but certain to ask the US to avoid signing on.