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Public Statements

Letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has joined 44 senators in expressing concern about the dangers posed to Second Amendment rights by the United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty. The 45 senators notified President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton of their intent to oppose ratification of an Arms Trade Treaty that in any way restricts the rights of law-abiding American gun owners. This would be enough to block the treaty from Senate passage, as treaties submitted to the U.S. Senate require approval of two-thirds of Senators present to be ratified.

"I am deeply concerned that the proposed United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty could threaten the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment, which protects the sacred right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms," said Isakson. "If the proposed Arms Trade Treaty is presented to the U.S. Senate and if it infringes on the Second Amendment, I will oppose its ratification."

Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said, "As we have for the past 15 years, the NRA will fight to stop a United Nations Arms Trade Treaty that infringes on the Constitutional rights of American gun owners. This letter sends a clear message to the international bureaucrats who want to eliminate our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms. Clearly, a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty that includes civilian arms within its scope is not supported by the American people or their elected U.S. Senators."

Isakson has received an "A' rating from the NRA for his voting record. He also earned the endorsement of the NRA during his Senate re-election campaign in 2010 for being "staunch defender of the Second Amendment freedoms of law-abiding gun owners, hunters and sportsmen."
In October of 2009 at the U.N. General Assembly, the Obama Administration reversed the previous Administration's position and voted for the United States to participate in negotiating the Arms Trade Treaty, purportedly to establish "common international standards for the import, export, and transfer of conventional arms." Preparatory committee meetings are now under way in anticipation of a conference in 2012 to finalize the treaty. A treaty draft has not yet been produced.

The letter to Obama was signed by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Heller,Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), John Thune (R-S.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), David Vitter (R-La.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

The full text of the signed letter is below and the PDF version can be found here:

July 22, 2011

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
2201 C St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear President Obama and Secretary Clinton:

As defenders of the right of Americans to keep and bear arms, we write to express our grave concern about the dangers posed by the United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty. Our country's sovereignty and the constitutional protection of these individual freedoms must not be infringed.

In October of 2009 at the U.N. General Assembly, your administration voted for the U.S. to participate in negotiating this treaty. Preparatory committee meetings are now underway in anticipation of a conference in 2012 to finalize the treaty. Based on the process to date, we are concerned that the Arms Trade Treaty poses dangers to rights protected under the Second Amendment for the following reasons.

First, while the 2009 resolution on the treaty acknowledged the existence of "national constitutional protections on private ownership," it placed the existence of these protections in the context of "the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership," implying that constitutional protections must be interpreted in the context of the broader power of the state to regulate. We are concerned both by the implications of the 2009 resolution and by the hostility to private firearms ownership manifested by similar resolutions in previous years--such as the 2008 resolution, which called for the "highest possible standards" of control.

Second, your Administration agreed to participate in the negotiation only if it "operates under the rule of consensus decision-making." Given that the 2008 resolution on the treaty was adopted almost unanimously--with only the U.S. and Zimbabwe in opposition--it seems clear that there is a near-consensus on the requirement for the "highest possible standards," which will inevitably put severe pressure on the United States to compromise on important issues.

Third, U.N. member states regularly argue that no treaty controlling the transfer of arms internationally can be effective without controls on transfers inside member states. Any treaty resulting from the Arms Trade Treaty process that seeks in any way to regulate the domestic manufacture, assembly, possession, transfer, or purchase of firearms, ammunition, and related items would be completely unacceptable to us.

Fourth, reports from the 2010 Preparatory Meeting make it clear that many U.N. member states aim to craft an extremely broad treaty. A declaration by Mexico and other Central and South American countries, for example, called for the treaty to cover "All types of conventional weapons (regardless of their purpose), including small arms and light weapons, ammunition, components, parts, technology and related materials." Such a broad treaty would be completely unenforceable, and would pose dangers to all U.S. businesses and individuals involved in any aspect of the firearms industry. At the 2010 Meeting, the U.S. representative twice expressed frustration with the wide-ranging and unrealistic scope of the projected treaty. We are concerned that these cautions will not be heeded, and that the Senate will eventually be called upon to consider a treaty that is so broad it cannot effectively be subject to our advice and consent.

Fifth, and finally, the underlying philosophy of the Arms Trade Treaty is that transfers to and from governments are presumptively legal, while transfers to non-state actors (such as terrorists and criminals) are, at best, problematic. We agree that sales and transfers to criminals and terrorists are unacceptable, but we will oppose any treaty that places the burden of controlling crime and terrorism on law-abiding Americans, instead of where it belongs: on the culpable member states of the United Nations who have failed to take the necessary steps to block trafficking that is already illegal under existing laws and agreements.

As the treaty process continues, we strongly encourage your Administration to uphold our country's constitutional protections of civilian firearms ownership. These freedoms are not negotiable, and we will oppose ratification of an Arms Trade Treaty presented to the Senate that in any way restricts the rights of law-abiding U.S. citizens to manufacture, assemble, possess, transfer or purchase firearms, ammunition, and related items.


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