Senators announce opposition to Obama-backed U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) faces a nearly impossible road to ratification after half of the United States Senate reiterated their opposition to the measure in a letter to President Barack Obama.

The letter, which was spearheaded by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and signed by 50 senators, meticulously explained the reasons for opposition, including the lack of consensus at the U.N. and weak recognition of the lawful use of firearms.

“[T]he treaty was adopted by a procedure which violates a red line laid down by your own administration. In October 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the U.S. supported the negotiation of the treaty only by ‘the rule of consensus decision-making,’” noted the senators in the letter to President Obama.

“But in April 2013, after the treaty failed to achieve consensus, it was adopted by majority vote in the U.N. General Assembly,” the senators wrote. “We fear that this reversal has done grave damage to the diplomatic credibility of the United States.”

President Obama supports the treaty, which was signed last month by Secretary of State John Kerry. Many Second Amendment supporters believe that the treaty will serve as a backdoor for gun control regulations, including gun registration, as a provision of the measure requires countries to track gun ownership of small arms to the “end user.”

The senators noted that the treaty’s lack recognition of lawful ownership and tracking requirements played a factor in their opposition.

“[T]he treaty includes only a weak non-binding reference to the lawful ownership and use of, and trade in firearms, and recognizes none of these activities, much less individual self-defense, as fundamental individual rights,” noted the senators.

“It encourages governments to collect the identities of individual end users of imported firearms at the national level, which would constitute the core of a national gun registry, and it creates a national ‘responsibility’ to ‘prevent … [the] diversion’ of firearms, which could be used to justify the imposition of controls within the U.S. that would pose a threat to the Second Amendment and infringe on the rights protected therein,” they added.

Other reasons listed for opposition are the treaty’s “ambiguous” language and “vague” criteria. The senators also contend that the treaty will violate the United States’ sovereignty and “allow foreign sources of authority to impose judgment or control upon the U.S.”

“We urge you to notify the treaty depository that the U.S. does not intend to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, and is therefore not bound by its obligations,” the senators told President Obama. “As members of the Senate, we pledge to oppose the ratification of this treaty, and we give notice that we do not regard the U.S. as bound to uphold its object and purpose.”

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution requires a 2/3 majority (67 votes) to ratify any treaty. There was already a test vote on the issue in March. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) sponsored a non-binding amendment that outright rejected the treaty. It passed by a vote of 53 to 46, with five Senate Democrats supporting it.

The fact that Manchin spearheaded the letter is worth noting since his amendment, co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to impose more restrictive background checks earned the ire of pro-Second Amendment organizations. That amendment was defeated in April when the Senate took up the issue of gun control.

The letter was signed by 45 Republicans, including Sens. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Four vulnerable red state Democrats who up for re-election next year — Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) — also signed the letter.

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