NRA vs UN: Arms Trade Treaty stirs frenzy in US gun lobby
UN ministers are hoping to convince the 193-member states to
better regulate the import and export of particular weapons – for
example, the omnipresent AK-47 assault rifle – which they say could
be used to commit human rights atrocities, as well as acts of
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) would apply to small arms, as well
as tanks, artillery, warships, fighter aircraft and
The UN treaty carries a provision that suggests UN members
“adopt appropriate legislative, administrative or other measures to
regulate, where necessary and feasible, conventional arms covered
by this Treaty that transit or transship through its
These supranational efforts by the United Nations have been
fiercely condemned by the NRA and other US civil groups, mostly on
the right of the political spectrum, who fear a “global gun
grab,” as well as the creation of an international database of
“What we really object to is the inclusion of civilian
firearms within the scope of the ATT,” said Tom Mason, an
attorney who has represented the NRA at the UN for nearly two
decades, the Washington Post reported. “This is a treaty that
really needs to address the transfer of large numbers of military
weapons that leads to human rights abuses. We have submitted
language that you can define what a civilian firearm
Human rights groups, however, insist these fears are
Michelle A. Ringuette, chief of campaigns and programs at
Amnesty International USA, said the opposition proved the “gun
lobby’s creativity” in claiming that ‘civilian weapons’
differentiated from military weapons under the ATT.
“There is no such distinction,” she emphasized in her
statement. “To try to create one would create a loophole that
would render the treaty inoperative, as anyone could claim that he
or she was in the business of trading ‘civilian
The NRA views the UN debate on ATT as the latest challenge to
gun rights. Last week, the US Senate Judiciary Committee approved a
measure to reinstate a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, since
the law prohibiting the firearms expired in 2004. Although the
legislation is unlikely to pass a Senate vote, it shows that public
opinion on gun ownership may be turning.
Gun control has become a hot topic in the United States
following a spate of horrific mass shootings carried out with
On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza went on a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in
Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six staff members.
The incident ranks as the second-deadliest shooting in US history,
after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre (32 dead; 17
On July 20, 2012, another mass shooting, this one inside of a
movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, sent shockwaves of grief through
the country. The gunman fired into the audience with various
firearms, killing 12 people and injuring dozens. The sole suspect
is James Eagan Holmes, who was arrested outside the cinema
following the shooting spree.
Due to the increase in such incidents, the Obama administration
is displaying a new resolve towards implementing gun control
measures, saying it supports the UN initiative.
“The United States is steadfast in its commitment to achieve
a strong and effective Arms Trade Treaty that helps address the
adverse effects of the international arms trade on global peace and
stability,” Secretary of State John Kerry said.
Negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty begin Monday at the UN
headquarters in New York.
The NRA, which is a founder of the World Forum on Shooting
Activities, an international alliance of gun owners and gun
manufacturers, will also be in New York this week petitioning
against the controversial treaty.