After my September column on the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, two readers took me to task for an alarmist statement they said caused the entire column to be suspect.
As I stated in the column, when the internet noise on a facet of gun politics causes panicky e-mails from friends and readers, it is time to research the subject and try to write about it in my columns, putting some of the dire warnings to rest.
And I expected the same when I started researching this movement by UN member nations toward a form of international gun control. I thought it was a lot of internet rumor, fueled by half-truths, misrepresentations and outright lies.
Instead, I found a huge reservoir of writings, releases and warnings in the national media and gun press about the dire consequences of such a treaty coming to pass.
This treaty is a real political “hot potato” that raises concerns about global control of sporting arms, which would affect many of our own freedoms of firearms ownership.
In my column, I quoted a noted expert in the field of firearms politics, with a personal response from Stephen Halbrook, a nationally respected attorney, author and scholar on Second-Amendment issues, and I also quoted reports and editorials on the Arms Trade Treaty by Reuters News Agency and the Washington Times newspaper.
I also quoted several lines from the U.S. Constitution that state if a treaty is ratified by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate, and signed by the president, that treaty becomes the law of the land and supersedes U.S. law.
While no one really believes the Senate will ever agree to any such treaty in its current form, the fact of its existence and the current administration entering into discussion over it has given gun-rights experts and organizations plenty to worry about.
Two readers pointed to a Supreme Court decision from 1957 entitled Reed v. Covert. This case is considered a landmark decision that determined no international treaty could ever supersede the Constitution.
My diligence wasn’t due enough in missing this decision by the Supreme Court, and I stand corrected on that point.
I quoted the parts of the Constitution because the proposed treaty has caused such concern and consternation among gun-rights organizations and groups, some have alluded to this misconception in their own releases.
But both of these readers used the statement on the Constitution to cast doubt on the rest of the article, which led me to believe they did not read the rest very well, nor did as much research as they claimed to disprove my statements. In fact, one claimed the column was “noting (sic) but a perverted way of attacking the President.”
Ted Rowe is a consultant to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI), and president of the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities. He is a former president of Sig Arms, and Harrington & Richardson. Rowe has been battling U.N. moves to limit gun rights across the world for years.
He told me a treaty does not have to be signed to cause problems for United States citizens. While the portions of the Constitution referring to treaties becoming the law of the land is open to interpretation, there is little doubt such an action by the Senate and the President would result in lawsuits, and one Supreme Court justice told him privately the court would never allow such to occur.
His recent speech to a UN subcommittee criticizing this treaty stated it would limit the rights of individuals to ship arms on hunting trips, and some emerging African nations see a major portion of their national budgets gained from sport hunting and the ancillary businesses spawned by it. The well-being of emerging African nations is also of great interest to the member nations of the UN.
A good friend is a prominent owner of a nationally recognized wholesale firearms business.
He recently flew to Washington, D.C., at his own expense, to lobby members of Congress about the Arms Trade Treaty, and the many worrisome actions it could propose such as microstamping of firearms. Such would be devastating to the gun business, adding huge costs to the manufacturing of all guns.
My friend was assured by every member of Congress he met that no such treaty would ever pass a vote in the Senate, let alone garner two-thirds of the votes in that house.
But the fact remains the treaty is still very much under discussion, and the Obama administration has entered into the debate.
Treaties, even without being ratified, still have an effect globally.
Sportsmen could be severely limited in the types or numbers of guns they ship to other countries for legal hunting trips. The treaty also would impose the following, according to a news release by the Gun Owners of America organization:
• Microstamping technology on firearms, thus making ammunition easily identified with a firearm once fired.
• Registration of firearms.
• Restrictions on gun sales, especially private transfers.
• Embargoes on firearms and materials, which would limit access to guns sold in this country.
So, I stand corrected on the statement on the Constitution. A Supreme Court decision from 1957 stands ready to block a treaty from superseding the Constitution. The fact remains the treaty is still being discussed, and could easily cause problems for gun owners around the world — even if it is never ratified by the Senate and signed by the President.
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