NEW YORK (MainStreet)—The United States was among the vast majority of member nations to ratify the first international disarmament treaty, called the Arms Trade Treaty, at the United Nations General Assembly in early April, in a bid to control the illicit trade of conventional arms. The vote was a considerable symbolic step for the U.S., the largest global exporter of arms, which previously was one of the players that blocked the passage of the treaty when it was negotiated in July 2012.
The treaty now faces the real risk of lying dormant in Washington D.C., though, as it faces the tough challenge of passing through the U.S. Senate with at least 67 votes. Fifty-two senators signed a measure in March to prevent the U.S. from entering into the ATT, which only North Korea, Syria and Iran voted against.
In the midst of an intensifying heated political and social debate on gun control in the U.S.--one that escalated this week--the National Rifle Association has been leading the opposition on the ATT, as it is known, saying that the treaty threatens the rights and privacy of American gun owners. American gun sales peaked in 2012, as FBI background checks for gun sales in 2012 totaled 19.6 million, an annual record, up 19% from the checks done in 2011.
Yet the ATT specifically grants individual governments the sovereign right to regulate and control conventional arms within their own borders.
“Nothing in this treaty could ever infringe on the rights of American citizens under our domestic law or the Constitution, including the Second Amendment,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement following the treaty's April 4 approval.
The conflation of the two issues – domestic U.S. gun ownership and American foreign arms exports – is exasperating for some international arms control experts.