Tuesday, May 05, 2020

The UN Arms Trade Treaty

It's been just over a year since President Trump announced the US withdrawal from the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the annual NRA meeting in Indianapolis. The withdrawal was heralded on stage by Trump and Second Amendment activists as a major win for protecting American sovereignty and the right to gun ownership. The statement released by the Whitehouse labeled the treaty as a "misguided agreement" that "infringed upon the sovereignty of the US". In the same statement, it championed US export controls as the "gold standard for engaging in responsible arms trading" adding that the treaty was simply "not needed."

What is confusing about these statements is that the treaty itself holds no authority over domestic gun control laws.  The already existing "gold standard" in the US meant that the signing of the treaty would not require any change to US laws to remain in compliance. The US was also the second largest financial contributor to the negotiations behind Japan. The original intent of the treaty was not to bring the US into compliance.

The ATT treaty in reality was meant to limit the capabilities of regimes such as North Korea, Syria and Iran to procure weapon systems and other military technologies. It could also have served as a means of pressuring other regimes accused of human rights abuses such as Saudi Arabia and Israel to be more compliant with international norms. The implications are effectively none for the Second Amendment. To put it bluntly, this treaty was meant to regulate weapons that are worth more than your house, not your Winchester rifle. If any, regulation could fall on the actions of major weapon manufacturers abroad (i.e. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon), but they are already heavily regulated by the government for national security purposes. The Trump Administrations actions instead of being viewed as a defense of national sovereignty should be viewed as an attack on multilateralism. The treaty was simply taken as an opportunity to publicly reject global institutions and consensus from the realm of US foreign policy.

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