While the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the first international treaty attempting to regulate the $60 billion global small arms trade on Tuesday, the measure is likely to be dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate as Republicans have repeatedly voiced concerns that such a measure is a backdoor attempt to usurp Second Amendment gun rights.
“UN Arms Treaty should be rejected outright by US Senate,” tweeted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday. “It is international gun regulation, plain and simple & it must never be ratified.”
Even before the international document was drafted, the Senate last month voted to prevent the United States from entering into such an arms treaty with all 45 Republicans and eight Democrats, supporting an amendment drafted by Oklahoma Sen. James M. Inhofe. The measure would require two-thirds approval for ratification by the upper chamber, which has a total of only 100 seats.
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“The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty is another attempt by internationalists to limit and infringe upon America’s sovereignty,” said Inhofe in a statement. “Such a treaty would require the United States to implement laws as required by the treaty, instead of the national controls that are currently in place. This would also disrupt diplomatic and national security efforts by preventing our government from assisting allies like Taiwan, South Korea, or Israel when they require assistance. I will continue to mount strong opposition to any effort by Secretary Kerry and the State Department to ratify this treaty.”
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry called the U.N. document a “strong, effective and implementable” treaty and stressed that it applies only to international deals and “reaffirms the sovereign right of any state to regulate arms within its territory.”
The treaty prohibits countries that ratify it from exporting conventional weapons if they violate arms embargoes, or if they promote acts of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, or if the weapons could be used in attacks against civilians or schools and hospitals.
In addition to stiff opposition in the Senate, the powerful National Rifle Association has vehemently opposed the measure.
The treaty covers battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons.
Countries that sign the treaty must evaluate whether such weapons would be used by terrorists or organized crime or would undermine peace and security. They must then take measures to prevent the weapons from being diverted to the black market.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Tuesday wrote to President Obama urging him not to sign the Arms Trade Treaty, calling it a “threat to Americans’ constitutional liberty” and threatening legal action.
“If you sign it, and if the U.S. Senate ratifies the treaty, Texas will lead the charge to have the treaty overturned in court as a violation of the U.S. Constitution,” wrote Abbott in the letter.
Enforcement is left up to the nations that ratify it. The pact requires these countries to assist each other in investigating and prosecuting violations.
“The treaty is a noble gesture that may over time acquire the kind of precedence or enforcement that would give it meaning,” said Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “At this point it is more a declaration of principles — and the arms trade is an area where many people don’t have principles.”
Hopes for adoption of the treaty by consensus instead of a vote were dashed last July when the U.S. said it needed more time to consider it. At the end of the final negotiating conference last week, Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked another attempt at consensus. Over those countries’ objections, the treaty’s supporters decided to put it to a vote in the General Assembly.
Proponents of the treaty said it could make it much harder for regimes committing human rights violations to acquire arms, in conflicts such as the brutal civil war in Syria.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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