For the past two centuries, Americans have enjoyed liberties unparalleled in the world, guaranteed by the United States Constitution -- including the fundamental right to keep and bear arms. Today, our freedoms and our country's sovereignty are in danger of being undermined by the United Nations.
In October of 2009, at the U.N. General Assembly, the Obama Administration voted for the United States to participate in negotiating an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) -- a reversal of the Bush and Clinton Administration positions. Supporters of the treaty claim it is intended to establish "common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms," including tanks, helicopters and missiles. However, by threatening to include civilian firearms within its scope, the Arms Trade Treaty could restrict the lawful private ownership of firearms in our country.
Proposals being considered by the committee would adversely impact Kansas and all American gun owners. For example, there have been regular calls for bans on the civilian ownership of guns Americans use to hunt, target-shoot and defend themselves. By requiring firearms to be accounted for throughout their life span, the ATT could lead to mandatory nationwide gun registration. Still other proposals could require the marking and tracking of all ammunition.
This week, the U.N. conference on the Arms Trade Treaty is taking place in New York City to finalize the treaty for adoption, which must be ratified by the U.S. Senate. The Chairman of the conference, Ambassador Roberto Garcia Moritán of Argentina, has released what is known as the "Chairman's Draft Paper," which includes the wishes of the 193 U.N. member states engaged in the treaty negotiations. Based on the process to date, I am concerned this treaty will infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of American gun owners and will be used by other countries that do not share our freedoms to wrongly place the burden of controlling international crime and terrorism on law-abiding American citizens.
Given these serious concerns, I led 50 of my colleagues this week in sending a message to the Obama administration: a U.N. Arms Trade Treaty that does not protect ownership of civilian firearms will fail in the Senate. On July 26, we notified President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of our intent to oppose ratification of a treaty that in any way restricts Americans' Second Amendment rights. Our opposition is strong enough to block the treaty from passage, as treaties submitted to the U.S. Senate require two-thirds approval to be ratified. In notifying the Obama administration, we outlined several concerns:
First, while the Draft Paper nominally applies only to "international arms transfers," it defines such transfers as including "transport" across nations. It requires member states to "monitor and control" arms in transit, and to "enforce domestically the obligations of the treaty" by prohibiting the unauthorized "transfer of arms from any location." Such a treaty would be incredibly difficult to enforce and would pose dangers to all U.S. businesses and individuals involved in any aspect of the firearms industry, from manufacturers to dealers to consumers.
Second, the Draft Paper requires nations to "maintain records of all imports and shipments of arms that transit their territory," including the identity of individual buyers. This information would then be reported to an UN-based firearms registry. At stake is our country's autonomy and the rights of American citizens protected under the Constitution.
Third, the Draft Paper requires that nations "shall take all appropriate measures necessary to prevent the diversion of imported arms into the illicit market or to unintended end users." America leads the world in export standards to ensure arms are transferred for legitimate purposes, and its citizens should not be punished by the ATT. There is no disagreement that sales and transfers to criminals and terrorists are unacceptable, but law-abiding Americans should not be held responsible for international crime and acts of terrorism. Instead, the responsibility should be on U.N. member states that have not enforced existing laws and have failed to block illegal trafficking of arms.
It is critical to further reinforce that our country's sovereignty and firearm freedoms must not be infringed upon by an international organization made up of many countries with little respect for gun rights. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure an Arms Trade Treaty that falls short of this standard and undermines the Constitutional rights of American gun owners is dead on arrival in the Senate.