By Daryl G. Kimball
News reports published today citing senior U.S. officials indicate that the Obama administration will make the United States a signatory to the Arms Trade Treaty, which was concluded in negotiations earlier this year and approved by the UN General Assembly in April and opened for signature in June.
The Arms Control Association–along with dozens of major U.S. human rights, religious, international development, and arms control groups–welcome U.S. signature of the treaty.
The Barack Obama administration played a critical and helpful role in the multilateral negotiations of the Arms Trade Treaty since 2009.
In an August 2013 letter to the White House urging U.S. signature of the treaty that was signed by leaders from Amnesty International USA, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam America, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and others, we wrote: U.S. signature of the ATT “would be a powerful step demonstrating the United States’ commitment to preventing mass atrocities and protecting civilians from armed conflict around the globe.”
U.S. signature will accelerate progress toward entry into force of the treaty and put pressure on other major arms suppliers, including Russia and China, and major buyers, including India, to join the treaty.
Allegations made by some here in the United States that the Arms Trade Treaty infringes on the domestic rights of U.S. citizens to legally possess firearms amount to irresponsible demagoguery.
The Arms Trade Treaty only governs international arms transfers and fully respects the sovereign rights of nations to regulate gun ownership as they see fit. It effectively internationalizes the standards for U.S. weapons exports that have been in place for many years.
No one, except maybe illicit arms dealers and human rights abusers, should oppose common-sense international law regulating the arms trade. Senators should take the time to review the facts on the Arms Trade Treaty before rushing to judgement on the basis misinformation from the U.S. domestic gun lobby.
When implemented, the Arms Trade Treaty will help protect innocent civilians against the scourge of violence and war across the globe. It deserves the full support of the President, the Congress, and the American people.