US gun lobby vows to fight arms trade treaty at UN
US gun lobby vows to fight arms trade treaty at UN
The UN General Assembly voted on Monday to restart negotiations in mid-March on the first international treaty to regulate conventional arms trade after a drafting conference in July collapsed because the US and other nations wanted more time. Washington supported Monday’s UN vote.
US President Barack Obama has come under intense pressure to tighten domestic gun control laws after the Dec. 14 shooting massacre of 20 children and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. His administration has since reiterated its support for a global arms treaty that does not curtail US citizens’ rights to own weapons.
Arms control campaigners say one person every minute dies as a result of armed violence and a convention is needed to prevent illicitly traded guns from pouring into conflict zones and fueling wars and atrocities.
In an interview with Reuters, NRA President David Keene said the Newtown massacre has not changed the powerful US gun lobby’s position on the treaty. He also made clear that the Obama administration would have a fight on its hands if it brought the treaty to the US Senate for ratification.
“We’re as opposed to it today as we were when it first appeared,” he said on Thursday. “We do not see anything in terms of the language and the preamble as being any kind of guarantee of the American people’s rights under the Second Amendment.”
The Second Amendment of the US Constitution protects the right to bear arms. Keene said the pact could require the US government to enact legislation to implement it, which the NRA fears could lead to tighter restrictions on gun ownership.
He added that such a treaty was unlikely to win the two-thirds majority in the US Senate necessary for approval.
“This treaty is as problematic today in terms of ratification in the Senate as it was six months ago or a year ago,” Keene said. Earlier this year a majority of senators wrote to Obama urging him to oppose the treaty.
UN delegates and gun-control activists say the July treaty negotiations fell apart largely because Obama, fearing attacks from Republican rival Mitt Romney before the Nov. 6 election if his administration was seen as supporting the pact, sought to kick the issue past the US vote.
US officials have denied those allegation.
The NRA claimed credit for the July failure, calling it at the time “a big victory for American gun owners.”
NRA IS ‘TELLING LIES’
The main reason the arms trade talks are taking place at all is that the United States — the world’s biggest arms trader, which accounts for more than 40 percent of global transfers in conventional arms — reversed US policy on the issue after Obama was first elected and decided in 2009 to support a treaty.
Supporters of the treaty accuse the NRA of deceiving the American public about the pact, which they say will have no impact on US domestic gun ownership and would apply only to exports. Last week, Amnesty International launched a campaign to counter what it said were NRA distortions about the treaty.
“The NRA is telling lies about the arms treaty to try to block US government support,” Michelle Ringuette of Amnesty International USA said about the campaign. “The NRA’s leadership must stop interfering in US foreign policy on behalf of the arms industry.”
Jeff Abramson of Control Arms said that as March approaches, “the NRA is going to be challenged in ways it never has before and that can affect the way things go” with the US government.
The draft treaty under discussion specifically excludes arms-related “matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State.”
Among its key provisions is a requirement that governments make compliance with human rights norms a condition for foreign arms sales. It would also have states ban arms transfers when there is reason to believe weapons or ammunition might be diverted to problematic recipients or end up on illicit markets.
Keene said the biggest problem with the treaty is that it regulates civilian arms, not just military weapons.
According to the Small Arms Survey, roughly 650 million of the 875 million weapons in the world are in the hands of civilians. That, arms control advocates say, is why any arms trade treaty must regulate both military and civilian weapons.
Keene said the NRA would actively participate in the fight against the arms trade treaty in the run-up to the March negotiations. “We will be involved,” he warned, adding that it was not clear if the NRA would address UN delegates directly as the group did in July.
The NRA has successfully lobbied members of Congress to stop major new gun restrictions in the United States since the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. It also gives financial backing to pro-gun candidates.
European and other UN delegates who support the arms trade treaty told Reuters on condition of anonymity they hoped Newtown would boost support for the convention in the United States, where gun control is an explosive political issue.
“Newtown has opened the debate within the United States on weapons controls in ways that it has not been opened in the past,” Abramson said, adding that “the conversation within the US will give the (Obama) administration more leeway.”
Keene rejected the idea of bringing the Newtown tragedy into the discussion of an arms trade treaty.
“I find it interesting that some of the folks that advocate the treaty say it would have no impact whatever within the United States but that it needs to be passed to prevent another occurrence of a school shooting such as took place in Newtown,” he said. “Both of those positions can’t be correct.”
Obama administration officials have tried to explain to US opponents of the arms trade pact that the treaty under discussion would not affect domestic gun sales and ownership.
“Our objectives for the ATT (arms trade treaty) have not changed,” a US official told Reuters. “We seek a treaty that fights illicit arms trafficking and proliferation, protects the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade, and meets the concerns that we have articulated throughout.”
“In particular, we will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of US citizens to bear arms,” the official added.
Supporters of the treaty also worry that major arms producers like Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan and others could seek to render the treaty toothless by including loopholes and making key provisions voluntary, rather than mandatory.
The United States, like all other UN member states, can effectively veto the treaty since the negotiations will be conducted on the basis of consensus. That means the treaty must receive unanimous support in order to be approved in March.
But if it fails in March, UN delegations can put it to a vote in the 193-nation General Assembly, where diplomats say it would likely secure the required two-thirds majority.
Pakistan vows to fight extremism under the banner of Shanghai Cooperation Organization
- Pakistan hosts meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) to discuss enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation among the member states.
- Pakistan should also enhance bilateral relationship with the SCO members as Euro-Asia is going to be an economic hub.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan vowed to eliminate terrorism and extremism in the region by working with Shanghai Cooperation Organization as the three-day meeting got under way in Islamabad.
“Pakistan fully supports and welcomes the efforts of SCO-RATS in the fight against three evils of terrorism, extremism and separatism,” Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) meeting.
Legal experts from the eight member states — China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Pakistan — as well as representatives of the SCO-RATS executive committee, were taking part in the meeting.
It is the first SCO meeting to be held in Pakistan since it joined the organization in June 2017. The main purpose of the meeting is to discuss terrorist threats facing the region and how to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation between the member states.
“We support the SCO consensus that as we engage in the fight against terrorism, we must respect the norms and principles of international law, UN Charter and shun double standards,” the Foreign Secretary said.
She also emphasized that terrorism cannot and should not be identified with any religion, individual countries or nationalities.
She said: “We have lost thousands of our citizens and law enforcement personnel, with many more injured. We have also suffered economic losses of more than $120 billion.”
But human and financial losses have not dented Pakistan’s determination to fight this menace, she said, adding that comprehensive efforts over the past several years, supported by a firm domestic political consensus, have helped Pakistan to turn the tide against terrorism.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a permanent intergovernmental international organization, which was founded on June 15, 2001 in Shanghai, China.
Former ambassadors, political and security analysts view the first-ever SCO meeting in Islamabad as an opportunity for the government to present its case against terrorism and extremism effectively to the international community.
Former ambassador Mohammed Ayaz Wazir said it was good for Pakistan to be hosting the hold the meeting at a time when some hostile countries have been trying to isolate it in the international community.
“Pakistan should also enhance bilateral relationship with the SCO members as Euro-Asia is going to be an economic hub and peace center of the world,” he told Arab News.
Wazir pointed out that immediate benefit of the SCO platform is that Pakistan and India have been talking to each other despite being reluctant to revive the bilateral talks on several important issues.
“For peace and development in the region, all member states of the SCO should shun their petty differences and devise cogent mechanisms of cooperation and collaboration,” he said.
Tahir Malik, professor at a public-sector university and political analyst, said it has become a global challenge to overcome the menaces of terrorism and extremism, that no country could deal with effectively acting alone.
“All SCO member states should cooperate in the fields of research and technology to promote knowledge-based economy and peace in the region,” he told Arab News.