Skip to main content

The EU, US, and the Arms Trade Treaty

Written By | Apr 3, 2014

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2014 —When the US-EU summit in Brussels was concluded last week, the newly adjourned leaders released a statement concerning on the state of their affairs and the directions and actions they intend to take on the various problems facing the World today. The joint statement addressed a wide array of efforts, projects, and proposals that the US-EU and UN have been working on and would like to see implemented. One of those issues is the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty. “We affirm our join commitments on non-proliferation, disarmament, and arms control…We will also work together to promote the entry into force the Arms Trade Treaty in 2014.”

The United States was founded upon the idea that the government was subservient to the people, and that the government existed only out of the barest of necessities to provide for the basic rule of law. Our Founding Fathers even saw into the future that the rights they laid down and cemented in the Constitution would be infringed upon and attacked. Our nation was founded upon the ideal that the rights of the individual were greater and more powerful than the privileges of the many.

One of the ways which we as a nation have managed to somewhat maintain the balance between the people and the government is the unwillingness to surrender to the government the ability of the people to rise against unjust laws and rulers. One of the reasons that the United States is, or was at least, the envy of the World in terms of personal freedoms is because the people retain the ultimate right and power over those who would seek to rule them. It is the right and the duty of the people to ensure that one particular aspect of government that occurs around the World does not seep its way into American politics and liberties.

That aspect is the monopoly of the state on the use of force.

When the state has a monopoly on the use of force, they no longer are required to reason with their populace. They are no longer required to maintain a discourse of ideas, or to hear the voices of the people, or most importantly, to remind the government of the danger of overstepping their bounds. The manner in which the people retain this check on government power, and the manner in which they retain their rights, is through the right to keep and bear arms.

The United States has fallen a long way since our founding. The government has created a class for itself, exempting federal, state, and local employees from many of the provisions they pass and expect the people to obey. The idea that the power of the people is held first in the right to free speech and second in the right to bear arms is now seen as radical and uncivilized. Many people believe that the people do not require the right to bear arms anymore, and that the idea that a tyrannical government would impose itself on the people, or that civilians would need the protection of firearms to bolster national defense in a time of invasion is ludicrous. They say it cannot happen today.

In fact they, and likeminded individuals in governments around the World are so sure that the age of the need for armed civilians has passed, that they have drafted and pushed the UN Arms Trade Treaty.

Heavily veiled as an attempt to stifle the illicit global arms trade currently responsible for adding fuel to the fire of countless wars and conflicts around the globe, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has far reaching implications for the sovereignties and individual liberties of American citizens. Buried within its intents and purposes is the desire to create national registries for firearms in the signatory countries.

The Arms Trade Treaty, voted in favor of by one hundred fifty four countries, signed by one hundred eighteen, and ratified by thirty one, attempt to stifle the flood of arms to war torn and unstable regions around the World. It contains restrictions against sending arms to groups prohibited from receiving them under previous UN sanctions, as well as charges nations to take responsibility for the policing of arms coming in and leaving their borders.

Under the preamble, it states that one of the “underlying” purposes of the Treaty is to highlight “the need to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and to prevent their diversion to the illicit market, or for unauthorized end use and end users, including in the commission of terrorist acts…”

This of course is a legitimate need and a valid concern. Despite being in regions with strict gun control it seems that terrorists and insurrectionists are routinely supplied weapons, and it seems as though this Treaty aims to stop such behavior.

There was, and is, much apprehension by the pro Second Amendment groups in the United States about this Treaty circumventing the right to bear arms without going through Congress. In an effort to stifle these concerns, in wording almost directly aimed at American apprehension towards this treaty, the UN included the following wording.

Reaffirming the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system…”

It should end there then, correct? Shouldn’t pro-gun citizens and politicians be relieved that the Treaty reaffirms the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms in their territory?

In the United States, while the government does reserve the right to tax and regulate certain kinds of firearms, they do not have the right to completely control the conventional arms trade. The Second Amendment reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Ergo, the government has a limited right over the arms trade in the United States. Of course they can say that weapons must meet certain standards, they can pass laws prohibiting features, and they can outlaw the sale of the vast majority of automatic weapons to the general public, but they do not control the trade.

While the Arms Trade Treaty is attempting to pacify the gun owners of the World by saying that the provisions of the Treaty do not infringe upon their rights, it simultaneously recognizes the right for a nation to control conventional arms within their borders.

In other words, the Arms Trade Treaty, whether inadvertently or on purpose, establishes an international provision for the nationalization of the arms trade of a given signatory nation. The right to bear arms was established for us within Constitution in order to be the last check on government tyranny and oppression through the ever present threat of armed rebellion. It would not only be unconstitutional, but criminal, for the government to attempt to seize control of the American arms manufacturing industry.

The socialization of the arms industry is not the only aspect of the Arms Trade Treaty which is a cause for concern, but the language the treaty uses towards the existing arms trade. In an attempt to further assuage international gun owners and gun manufacturers, the Treaty reads that its authors are “Mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership, and use are permitted or protected by law.”

This treaty defines “legitimate” ownership of firearms if they are in the pursuit of “recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities.” Any other form of ownership it would seem would then be deemed illegitimate. That means arms owned for self-defense, as well as means to check the state owned monopoly on force, are potentially not covered under the Arms Trade Treaty.

However perhaps the most alarming, and potentially harmful, provisions of the Treaty comes under Article 5, Section 2. It reads that “Each State Party shall establish and maintain a national control list, in order to implement the provisions of this treaty.” The phrase “national control list” is extremely detrimental to the right of the people to keep and bear arms as a check on potential government tyranny. A national control list is the first step towards confiscation, and any nation interested and truly committed to maintaining the civil liberties of their people would refrain from entering into a treaty which mandates the establishment of “national control” over conventional arms. The body which the 2nd Amendment seeks to protect the people from has no right to govern the manner in which the rights under that amendment are practiced.

This treaty right now sits and awaits the pleasure of the Senate. The chances of it passing are slim. But the President has signed it, signaling his intent to follow through with the provisions of the treaty. This is important, it is important to understand that the President of the United States has signaled his intent to follow the laws and the measures set forth in a treaty formed by a foreign international governing body. And while defendants of the Treaty are correct in asserting that it does not circumvent the 2nd Amendment, they are wrong in believing that it does not pose a threat to American industry, liberties, and to the American gun owners in general.

Its intent is clear; to establish government control over the arms trade within a given nation. It’s understanding of firearms ownership is clear; hunters, cultural shooters, and historical collectors have the right to own firearms, but there is no recognition for those who own them for personal and civil protection. The Arms Trade Treaty is nothing short of a document cementing and promoting the concept that the governments of the World are to retain a monopoly in force through control of the arms trade within their nations.

It is understood that the Treaty is not affected into law until ratified by the Senate; that is not the purpose or cause for alarm. What is cause for alarm The President signed this treaty, meaning that he agrees with the principles, with the words which sculpt its purpose and intent. With a monopoly of force, the government of the United States is no longer required to engage in political discourse with their people, nor are they swayed by threats of unrest or revolution. The balance of power, without the right to keep and bear arms, would fundamentally be altered in favor of the government, to the detriment of the civil liberties of the people whose rights they were sworn to uphold.

The Arms Trade Treaty is a threat to the balance of power in the United States, and though it will not likely pass, it makes clear the intent and purpose towards the right to keep and bear arms held by the man who is supposed to be the leader of the Free World. However his intent to adhere to the principles of the Treaty, serves as a glaring and obvious reminder to Americans that the President of the United States holds the right of the government to rule the people, over the right of the people to rule the government.


Like, follow, share @bckprchpolitics on Twitter and Back Porch Politics on Facebook

Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a BA from Catholic University in DC and an MA form George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, both in history. When he not getting his hands dirty in 2nd Amendment and firearms news he is doing his best to take a crack at some drive-by political analysis. And every now and then he may or may not review a low end bourbon for the tax write off. Sit back, relax, and enjoy Back Porch Politics.