An international gun control treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly goes into effect today, Dec. 24, but Congress has temporarily blocked U.S. involvement.
“I am grateful that Congress took this step but it is unbelievable to me that, in America, it was necessary,” said Linda Pellissier manager of the Old Mill Bargain Center in The Dalles.
The business sells firearms and Pellissier has been an outspoken critic of the Obama Administration signing the treaty in 2013 to regulate global trade of weapons, as well as military equipment. She believes it undermines U.S. sovereignty.
“We should not be supporting a treaty that could infringe on the gun rights of U.S. citizens,” she said. “We should not have to be worrying about whether this U.N. deal is funded or not.”
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said a provision in the $1.1 trillion spending bill approved by the House and Senate earlier this month prohibits funding from being used to support the UN Arms Trade Treaty.
He, like Pellissier, views the treaty as a potential threat to Second Amendment rights.
Walden’s Second Congressional District encompasses Wasco and Hood River counties, as well as 18 others in the rural sectors of the state.
“It’s very important for those of us who defend the Constitution to stand up for our rights,” he said. “We need to stop the Obama Administration from implementing this policy.”
In September 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signed the U.N. treaty on arms regulation on behalf of the Administration.
Kerry called the treaty a “significant step” in addressing illegal gun sales that led to human rights abuses while also protecting gun rights.
Opponents of the treaty, including Walden, say Kerry’s claim is “disingenuous.”
They argue that about 35 percent of all firearms in the U.S. are imported —roughly 3.2 million per year — and these weapons would be subject to regulation if the Senate ratifies the treaty.
In addition, the U.N. Register of Conventional Arms would track even small arms sales and that, say opponents, is likely to lead to even more trade restrictions.
In September 2013, the U.N. General Assembly held a vote on the treaty with 154 nations in favor, three opposed and 23 abstentions. As of press time Wednesday, 130 countries have signed the treaty and 60 have ratified it.
For the treaty to become law in the U.S., it must be ratified by 67 of 100 Senators.
With Republicans retaining control of the House and gaining the majority in the Senate following the November general election, Walden said there is no chance of the treaty being formally adopted – at least for the next two years.
“We need to stop this in its tracks and that’s what we’re working on,” he said.
He said Congress took two other steps in the 2015 budget to preserve “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”
The ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) has been given $22 million more in funding to catch up on a backlog of paperwork that is causing delays in the issuance of licenses.
Seventy-three million dollars — $14 million more than 2014 — has been made available for state grants to improve record submissions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Walden said that should ensure firearms purchases take place in a timely manner.
“There are a lot of people working on many fronts to take away our gun ownership rights and we have to be continually watchful,” he said.
Under the terms of the U.N. treaty, participating nations are required to establish export and import controls for small arms and both vehicles and aircraft used in combat.
The treaty also requires participants to “establish and maintain a national control system, including a national control list, in order to implement the provisions.”
Proponents, such as Amnesty International, contend the treaty sets up robust global rules to stop the flow of weapons, munitions and related items into countries that will use for human rights abuses.
Amnesty International estimates that the value of international transfers of conventional arms is about $100 billion per year.
More than half of the 193 U.N. member states make and supply weapons and military equipment.
According to Amnesty International, about half a million people are directly killed by firearms every year in acts of state repression or by criminal gangs.
“And for every person who is killed in conflict and armed violence, we have to consider the many more who are injured and tortured, abused, forcibly disappeared, taken hostage or otherwise denied their human rights down the barrel of a gun,” states a position paper written by the organization.
Obama is advocating for ratification of the treaty and the National Rifle Association fears the president will seek implementation of the restrictions via executive order.
Walden said GOP leaders and Democrats from conservative states will strongly oppose any such action.