The Right-Wing’s Favorite New Conspiracy: The U.N. Is After Your Guns

Call it the conspiracy theory that won’t die. The U.N. has been working for years to produce a final text of the Arms Trade Treaty, an agreement to regulate the global arms trade (right now, international banana and bottled water sales are more restricted than weapons sales). The negotiations have just restarted and, with them, a massive round of panic on the right about the U.N.’s nefarious plan to undermine the Second Amendment. The NRA frets that “global gun banners have markedly stepped up their attack on our Second Amendment freedoms.” Roughly 130 Congresspeople speculated that “the ATT is likely to pose significant threats to…our constitutional rights.” The Washington Times led an editorial with the screaming headline “The U.N. is coming for your guns.” There’s just one problem with this narrative: it’s totally made up:

  • The Obama Administration required language in the initial 2009 General Assembly resolution acknowledging “national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory.”
  • The State Department rules out provisions restricting constitutional rights and sovereign control of domestic weapons regulation in its ATT “Red Lines.”
  • Since the Supreme Court has held that individual gun ownership is constitutionally protected, and international law cannot override the Constitution, the U.N. could not take American guns even if the Administration and Senate wanted it to.
  • As Naval Postgraduate School arms expert Diana Wueger points out, the ATT isn’t even intended to regulate domestic arms: “The Arms Trade Treaty will not regulate domestic sales of firearms. Its focus is instead on the control of the legal, international trade in conventional weapons.”
  • Conspirators seize on a recently leaked U.N. paper’s suggestion that “arms trade must therefore be regulated in ways that would…minimize the risk of misuse of legally owned weapons.” Even setting aside the ambiguity of the line in question, the paper (inaccurately portrayed as part of a press kit) is playing no role in the negotiations over the text of the ATT. ThinkProgress confirmed this with U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs Information Officer Ewan Buchanan, who said “The negotiation is being done by the member states of the U.N., not by the Secretariat. It was an information paper that does not form any part of the negotiation process and the member states of the U.N. don’t have it.”

While the NRA and its allies scream about UN plots, the global arms trade continues to kill people in conflict zones around the world.