Obama’s part­ing shot

The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty gives away the rights of all Amer­i­cans

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Thomas L. Ma­son Thomas L. Ma­son is co-au­thor with David Keene of “Shall Not Be In­fringed: The New Threats to Your Sec­ond Amend­ment” (Sky­horse Pub­li­ca­tions, 2016).

An­other of Pres­i­dent Obama’s brazen acts as he leaves of­fice is a “part­ing shot” at Amer­i­can gun own­ers by sub­mit­ting the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty to the U.S. Se­nate for rat­i­fi­ca­tion. For the unini­ti­ated, the term refers to turn­ing around in your sad­dle as you ride away from a los­ing bat­tle and fir­ing one last round at your en­emy. The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was ne­go­ti­ated from 2006, dur­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, through 2013 with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. The orig­i­nal in­tent of the treaty was the­o­ret­i­cally to pro­hibit arms trans­fers to regimes that abused hu­man rights. From the very start though, gun con­trol groups looked upon the treaty as an end run around Amer­ica’s do­mes­tic re­luc­tance to adopt their agenda — if Congress and the state leg­is­la­tures wouldn’t pass gun con­trol why not get the U.N. to make it a per­ma­nent part of its agenda or even bet­ter part of in­ter­na­tional law? Gun con­trol groups have pur­sued their agenda at the or­ga­ni­za­tion since 1995 but were frus­trated by the likes of Am­bas­sador John Bolton who sin­gle-hand­edly stopped a U.N. treaty ef­fort in 2001 that would have reg­u­lated U.S. civil­ian firearms.

The pro­posed ATT gave them the op­por­tu­nity they had been wait­ing for, a legally bind­ing treaty im­pos­ing reg­u­la­tion and con­di­tions on the trans­fer and maybe pos­ses­sion of any weapon from a pis­tol to a bat­tle ship. As in­cred­i­ble as it seems, the U.N. Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion has al­ready in­ter­preted lack of gun con­trol as a hu­man rights abuse. The treaty is now in ef­fect and the United States has signed it.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and its chief ne­go­tia­tor Am­bas­sador Don­ald Mahley rec­og­nized the dan­ger of a treaty whose scope in­cluded civil­ian firearms. Dur­ing early ne­go­ti­a­tions Mr. Mahley con­vinced the U.N., and coun­tries sup­port­ing the treaty, to ex­empt firearms held un­der “na­tional Con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tion,” i.e. the Amer­i­can Sec­ond Amend­ment. This lan­guage was in the U.N. reports that were the ba­sis for the fi­nal ne­go­ti­a­tions at the ATT Con­fer­ences in 2012.

The elec­tion of Barack Obama and the ap­point­ment of Hil­lary Clin­ton as sec­re­tary of State changed ev­ery­thing. Mrs. Clin­ton de­moted Mr. Mahley and re­placed him with Un­der Sec­re­tary of State Tom Coun­try­man, a shaggy-haired dis­ar­ma­ment spe­cial­ist who had no in­ter­est in pro­tect­ing Amer­i­can gun rights. Mr. Mahley him­self fell ill with pan­cre­atic can­cer and died in 2013, an un­sung hero for Amer­i­can rights. The NRA and other gun rights groups lob­bied the new ad­min­is­tra­tion in good faith not to give away what Mr. Mahley had ac­com­plished. In 2011 Ex­ec­u­tive-Vice Pres­i­dent of the NRA Wayne La Pierre ap­peared be­fore the U.N. and bluntly told them that the ATT would be op­posed un­less there were pro­tec­tions of Amer­i­can gun rights. He was ig­nored. Fifty-seven U.S. sen­a­tors wrote the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and made essen­tially the same point. They were ig­nored. In ne­go­ti­a­tions with the State De­part­ment, and treaty sup­port­ers, we pointed out time af­ter time that a treaty that in­cluded Amer­i­can civil­ian firearms would never be rat­i­fied by the United States. We were ig­nored.

The “na­tional Con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tion” lan­guage for the treaty was slowly but surely re­moved by anti-gun forces with­out ob­jec­tion by Mrs. Clin­ton or Mr. Coun­try­man. The U.S. could have ob­jected and had its way and pre­served the lan­guage as the con­fer­ence draft­ing the treaty op­er­ated un­der the “con­sen­sus rule” whereby all the ma­jor pow­ers had to agree on the fi­nal text.

What hap­pened was not just part of the usual give and take of such ne­go­ti­a­tions, but a de­lib­er­ate act of bad faith by Hil­lary Clin­ton. The firearms com­mu­nity was un­der the im­pres­sion that the De­part­ment of State was ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith. How­ever, re­lease of Mrs. Clin­ton’s Beng­hazi emails re­vealed the truth. As it turned out one of the rea­sons she sup­ported the treaty was be­cause it was op­posed by the NRA. She wrote this in an email in March, 2011: “You know we’ve tried to sup­port the U.N. small arms treaty but we have run into, as usual, fierce NRA and con­gres­sional op­po­si­tion. But, I be­lieve we have to keep try­ing. All the best, H.” Other emails showed her ac­tively work­ing with and meet­ing with anti-gun groups sup­port­ing the treaty at the UN. Hil­lary her­self iden­ti­fied that the treaty was about “small arms,” the U.N. term for gun con­trol.

Un­for­tu­nately, there is nei­ther time nor space here to go into the oner­ous pro­vi­sions of the treaty, which them­selves would merit re­jec­tion of the in­stru­ment. In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, the fact that Amer­i­can rights were de­lib­er­ately given away should be more than suf­fi­cient rea­son for it never to be adopted.

In ne­go­ti­a­tions with the State De­part­ment, and treaty sup­port­ers, it was pointed out time af­ter time that a treaty that in­cluded Amer­i­can civil­ian firearms would never be rat­i­fied by the United States.


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