Getting real about the conventional arms treaty

Guest post from Peter Yeo, executive director of the Better World Campaign and vice-president for public policy at the UN Foundation

Late last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States would be joining international talks to regulate the trade of conventional weapons. This is a long-overdue step in the right direction. Stopping the flow of conventional weapons to conflict zones, terrorists, and insurgent groups requires robust international cooperation. Secretary Clinton’s announcement affirms that after years of sitting on the sidelines the United States will join international efforts to stem the flow of irresponsible or illegal arms transfers to groups that have brought misery and destruction to millions of people around the world.

Though this treaty process is intended to keep arms out of the hands of terrorist groups, child soldiers, insurgents and irresponsible governments, it is being presented by detractors as threatening Americans’ constitutional rights to bear arms. Let’s be clear: this process and the resulting treaty will have no bearing at all on the Second Amendment and domestic American laws regarding gun ownership. In fact in a concession to the United States, those nations that want a treaty have specified in the resolution to begin negotiations, that countries would have the exclusive right to regulate arms trade within their borders. In other words, nothing in these important negotiations will affect American laws related to gun ownership.

Attempts to make this treaty processes about the Second Amendment are made in bad faith. Doing so undermines international efforts to prevent conventional weapons from fueling instability in regions critical to American interests. Conflating this treaty process with a discussion about the Second Amendment is not only disingenuous, it is dangerous.