The recent scenes from Aurora, Colorado, the site of the deadly shooting inside a crowded movie theater, were horrifying.
A lone gunman, a mad man if you will, with all of the cold-blooded and bone-chilling calculation that one’s imagination could possibly muster, entered the cinema and promptly began his terroristic assault upon unsuspecting victims.
This individual had a cache of weapons stored in preparation for what he, in his mind, could only have foreseen as an all-out war.
The ease to which one could amass this arsenal of weapons and ammunition is, frankly, overwhelming. How many innocent lives shall be lost and families shattered before reasonable action rids us of this scourge of guns permeating our world today?
UNITED NATIONS LOOKS TO TAKE ACTION
The United Nations made the conscious effort to begin the process of regulating the $60 billion global arms trade in December 2006 when the U.N. General Assembly voted to come together to establish the Arms Trade Treaty (A.T.T.).
The U.S., under the guidance of then President George W. Bush, voted “no” on joining with other member nations on establishing the A.T.T. This was certainly not surprising that the Bush Administration would vote “no” given their close affiliation with the gun lobby.
However, by October 2009, with the Obama Administration now in place, they were able to reverse the Bush policy.
The U.S. supported a General Assembly resolution to conduct four preparatory meetings, and a U.N. conference held from July 2, 2012 – July 27, 2012 with the goal to reach agreement on an arms treaty.
To the dismay of many, and I include myself amongst them, all of the major media outlets reported on Saturday, July 28, 2012, that negotiations broke off and agreement failed to be reached on the A.T.T.
WHAT HAPPENED? WHY DID IT HAPPEN?
“There is no consensus and the meeting is over,” declared Ewen Buchanan, a representative for the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs, and with that, four weeks of work came to an abrupt end.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “The conference’s inability to conclude its work on this much-awaited A.T.T., despite years of effort of member states and civil society from many countries, is a setback.”
The U.S.indicated they needed more time to review the treaty and, fittingly, Russia and China did not miss an opportunity to join them.
Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Amnesty International USA in an interview with the Associated Press, spoke angrily in expressing how she felt with regard to these turn of events, “This was stunning cowardice by the Obama Administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line,” the Amnesty International USA leader said. She continued her terse comments by adding, “It’s a staggering abdication of leadership by the world’s largest exporter of conventional arms to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough.”
In a blog posted on Amnesty International USA’s website, http://blog.amnestyusa.org/us< Ms. Nossel said, “…the United States, Russiaand China, are trying to promote weaker treaty rules. The United States should seek better company.”
It would certainly appear election year politics factored into the decision-making process when the U.S. decided to
take a step back from the treaty. Why would they do this? Perhaps they saw the most recent issue of Time Magazine with the cover story titled "How Guns Won: Why Americans have turned against gun control" written by Joe Klein. At the eleventh-hour, the Obama Administration – perhaps not wanting to provide any issue for his opponent and his gun lobby supporters –made the determination, wrongly in my view, to table the matter until after the election. There are much larger issues at stake here than simply domestic political concerns. Allowing the export of weapons to countries like Syria in order for them to continue to perpetrate their atrocities on their own citizens is completely unacceptable, and this treaty would assist in regulating such actions.
True leadership requires making not only the right decisions, but the tough ones as well. It would have shown strong leadership by moving forward until an agreement was in place. As it stands now, this matter will be set aside for several more months.
NRA MISSES THE MARK ON THIS ISSUE
Those who cloak themselves in the Second Amendment, as the National Rifle Association does so nicely, opposes any regulations that may impede upon an individuals’ right to own a firearm.
The NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre stated to the U.N. recently, “Any treaty that includes civilian firearms ownership in its scope will be met with the NRA’S greatest force of opposition.”
Their fear is the “Right to keep and bear arms” will be usurped by the A.T.T.; however, what the NRA Director and his members seem to ignore is this treaty, or any other treaty for that matter, does not – nor cannot – take precedence over the United States Constitution – the Supreme Law of the Land.
Their fears are misplaced. The U.N. treaty does not, nor will not, infringe upon domestic ownership of firearms. Their arguments are baseless and without merit.
However, if this treaty prevented an individual such as the Colorado gunman from obtaining weapons for his diabolical plot, would they still oppose it? This is a question they should be asked. Would they say it is this person’s
“Right to keep and bear arms.”
NO DENYING THE NUMBERS SUPPORTING A STRONG TREATY
The U.S.has 5% of the world’s population and 50% of the guns. The illegal global trade in small arms continues to fuel conflicts, criminal gangs, militant insurgents, terrorists, and pirates as in Somalia. With half of the world’s supply of guns in its possession, the U.S. should be front and center on this matter.
By the end of 2010, approximately 27.5 million people deemed internally displaced due to conflict, came about because of the continued trade in small arms.
The estimates project that one person every minute dies in the world as a direct consequence of gun-related violence. This one number, one would think, would be enough to move those member states – stalling on this matter - to act more quickly to see passage of the A.T.T. is achieved.
These statistics do not lie. The Arms Trade Treaty (A.T.T.) deserves swifter consideration and evaluation or the world will continue to see these numbers grow.