Paul Gordon Collier- For the last few years, the United Nations Small Arms treaty has been floating around in the back channels of the halls of the US congress. Every time it has come up for debate, it has gotten shot down.
In 2013, a budget amendment passed by a vote of 53-46 that would prevent the US from ratifying the UN Small Arms Treaty. That amendment was written by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). In order for a treaty to be ratified, by Constitutional Law, it needs to pass the Senate bya 2/3 majority, or 67 votes. So far, this treaty can barely garner 45 votes, let alone 67.
So why are we still talking about this treaty? We are still talking about this treaty because the Obama administration is continuing to go forward as if the treaty can pass.
In December of 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry once signed the United Nations Arms Treaty, despite receiving a clear message from the Senate that no such treaty would be ratified.
Soon after Kerry signed the treaty, in January of this year, 12 Freshman Senators added their names to Senators who have expressed direct objection to the Small Arms Treaty, bringing the total number of Senators in objection to this treaty to 55.
Yet, the Obama administration has continued to actively participate in the treaty timeline of required events, including a recent summit in Cancun, Mexico to determine the method of governance for a treaty that the United States has failed to ratify, and shows no signs of doing so in the near future.
Jorge Lomonaco, Mexico’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, announced that the signatories of the treaty, including the United States, had made a unanimous agreement that all decisions made on governance of the treaty going forward would be done with a simple majority vote, with no vetoes possible from any member nation.
“This is really important because it guarantees that we can take decisions, that decisions aren’t blocked,” he said.
Here, first, are some key highlights of the Small Arms Treaty:
Article 16 International Assistance
1. In implementing this Treaty, each State Party may seek assistance including legal or legislative assistance, institutional capacity-building, and technical, material or financial assistance. Such assistance may include stockpile management, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs, model legislation, and effective practices for implementation. Each State Party in a position to do so shall provide such assistance, upon request.
2. Each State Party may request, offer or receive assistance through, inter alia, the United Nations, international, regional, sub regional or national organizations, non-governmental organizations, or on a bilateral basis.
3. A voluntary trust fund shall be established by States Parties to assist requesting States Parties requiring international assistance to implement this Treaty. Each State Party is encouraged to contribute resources to the fund.
21. To develop and implement, where possible, effective disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs, including the effective collection, control, storage and destruction of small arms and light weapons, particularly in post-conflict situations, unless another form of disposition or use has been duly authorized and such weapons have been marked and the alternate form of disposition or use has been recorded, and to include, where applicable, specific provisions for these programs in peace agreements.
In short, the UN Small Arms Treaty Act would appear to hand over much of American sovereignty regarding handgun regulations to the governing body of the this treaty. However, a countervailing view can be found in Snopes.com:
The Arms Trade Treaty has nothing to do with restricting the legal sale or ownership of guns within the United States. The aim of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty is to combat the illicit international trade of arms by “tightening regulation of, and setting international standards for, the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons” in order to “close gaps in existing regional and national arms export control systems that allow weapons to pass onto the illicit market”
Whether the treaty is a Trojan Horse to work around the second amendment, or simply a treaty to prevent international arms smuggling, the fact remains that opposition to the treaty in the Senate is more than enough to make this a moot point. However, recent events that had to do with another treaty, the Iran Nuclear Deal, have called some to wonder if a backdoor way has been created to allow for the passage of this treaty.
This backdoor comes in the form of the Bob Corker bill, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which has already passed the Senate, 98-1, the House 400-25, and was signed into law by the President on May 25th of this year.
The Corker Bill essentially recognizes the Iran deal as not being a treaty, but gives congress the power to reject parts of the deal if it so chooses. What this means is that congress must now muster a 60-vote majority in the Senate just to pass legislation blocking some part of the deal, and then, if the President vetoes the legislation, must then muster 67 votes to override his veto.
Critics have pointed out that the Corker bill has the net effect of turning a constitutional provision on its head. The deal essentially removes the constitutional power of the Senate to ratify this ‘treaty’ by arbitrarily defining it as something other than a treaty, and gives the President the power to ratify this deal unilaterally, unless congress can garner 67 votes in the Senate to override his veto.
What remains unclear is whether a similar bill would pass that would give the President the same power to ratify the Small Arms treaty as something other than a treaty as occurred with the Iran Nuclear Deal. Given the wide margins of passage of the Corker bill, opponents of the Small Arms Treaty are gravely concerned that this is exactly what is in the cards and this explains exactly why the administration is going forward in treaty activity despite having no realistic chance of having a treaty ratified by the Senate, at least in the traditional, constitutional sense of the term.