How The NRA Is Working To Gut The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

NRA Executive V.P. Wayne LaPierre appears at the United Nations, July 2012

The National Rifle Association is once again trying to affect the completion of a new arms treaty in New York, hoping to kill the treaty for good or include loopholes to render it toothless.

A new round of negotiations aimed at finalizing a potential Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) opened on Monday in New York, picking up with the draft where the last round left off. At stake: the regulation of the estimated $70 billion global arms trade, including the sale of small arms, tanks, and warplanes between countries.

The right-wing’s opposition to the ATT last year veered between the heated and the, well, insane. The NRA in particular was extremely vocal, including a visit by Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre to Turtle Bay to lobby. Since then, the group has had to confront a series of domestic challenges, including the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and revamped efforts to pass gun violence prevention legislation. In a firey speech to this year’s CPAC, LaPierre focused on those issues, rather than the supposed threat the U.N. poses as he did in 2012.

The NRA has not completely given up on efforts, however, to affect the final treaty:

“What we really object to is the inclusion of civilian firearms within the scope of the ATT,” said Tom Mason, the group’s executive secretary and a lawyer who has represented the NRA at U.N. meetings for nearly two decades. “This is a treaty that really needs to address the transfer of large numbers of military weapons that leads to human rights abuses. We have submitted language that you can define what a civilian firearm is.

Requests from ThinkProgress for the NRA to clarify what it meant by “civilian firearms” went unanswered, as did requests for the language they submitted. However, Michelle A. Ringuette, chief of campaigns and programs at Amnesty International USA, believes that any inclusion of provisions for “civilian firearms” would render the treaty toothless. “There is no such distinction,” Ringuette said in a statement. “To try to create one would create a loophole that would render the treaty inoperative, as anyone could claim that he or she was in the business of trading ‘civilian weapons.'”

The last set of talks collapsed last July when the United States and others refused to allow a vote on the document as it stood. Since then, the Obama administration has reversed course, allowing the current conference to proceed, making clear they would not be in favor of any infringement of U.S. citizens’ ownership rights. “We will not support any treaty that would be inconsistent with U.S. law and the rights of American citizens under our Constitution, including the Second Amendment,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

Even the American Bar Association has determined that the Arms Trade Treaty would have absolutely no impact on the Second Amendment in the U.S. Despite that, gun advocates in Congress are already rushing to condemn the draft treaty, with legislation already having been introduced in the House and Senate.