One of the most persistent stories about the UN that is circulated by people, who, shall we say, are pre-disposed to believing conspiracy theories, is that the UN is plotting to take Americans’ guns away. The latest manifestation of this meme occurred last month on the blog of National Association of Gun Rights, which is circulating an online petition to demand that the Senate vote against the UN “Arms Control Treaty.” The petition says, “The UN’s “Small Arms Treaty” is nothing more than a massive GLOBAL gun control scheme, designed to register, ban and CONFISCATE firearms from law-abiding citizens.” The NAGR also warns that the treaty, “would almost certainly FORCE national governments to…CONFISCATE and DESTROY ALL “unauthorized” civilian firearms (all firearms owned by the government are excluded, of course).”[CAPS from the original].
This post has been picked up by certain reaches of the blogosphere, including World Net Daily which quotes John Bolton who says, “There’s no doubt that the real agenda is domestic firearms control.”
Needless to say, the UN does not want to confiscate Americans’ firearms. What many member states do want to do, however, is make it more difficult for guerrilla movements, insurgents and irresponsible governments from easily obtaining small arms. Nine years ago, member states proposed setting in motion a treaty process that would do just that. The Bush administration, though, opposed the treaty process. This was problematic for the cause, as it were, because the United States is among the world’s largest exporter of small arms. Any treaty without the United States on board would not be very effective.
The Obama administration does not share the previous administration’s view of the utility of a small arms trade treaty. This fall, Secretary Clinton made clear that the United States would support the arms trade treaty process. However, understanding that any treaty requires senate passage, the United States set one big condition on the treaty negotiation process: that it proceed by consensus. This means that unanimity is required for all votes, which, in turn, gives the United States an effective veto over the entire process. This has not seem to quell the conspiracy spinners, who apparently remain convinced that the UN is plotting to take Americans’ guns away. But the fact of the matter is, this treaty process is all about restricting the international transfer of small arms to irresponsible end users, like terrorist groups, militias that use child soldiers, or governments that use the weapons to commit terrible human rights abuses.