Column: Gun control by treaty; next stop U.S. Senate

Secretary of State John Kerry, on signing the Arms Trade Treaty, delivered these remarks among others on Oct. 3:

“This is about keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue actors. This is about reducing the risk that international transfers of conventional arms will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes. This is about keeping Americans safe and keeping the world safe. This is about promoting international peace and protecting global security. And this is about advancing important humanitarian goals.”carey

And then the secretary drop-ped the other shoe:

“But let’s also be clear about what this treaty is not: this treaty will not diminish anyone’s freedom. In fact, the treaty recognizes the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess and use arms for legitimate purposes. We would never support a treaty that is inconsistent with the rights of American citizens guaranteed under our Constitution. This treaty reaffirms the sovereign right of each country to decide for itself, consistent with its own constitutional and legal requirements, how to deal with conventional arms exclusively traded within its borders.”

Why was the secretary of state laying so much emphasis on the U.S. Constitution? Without a doubt, because of the large amount of support that exists here for gun rights. But, has he done enough fence-mending to avoid a showdown whenever the president asks the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification of the treaty? Let’s take a look at initial reaction.

The record-keeping requirements of the treaty have aroused opposition. Article 12, 10, says that: “1. Each state party shall maintain records, pursuant to its national laws and regulations, of its issuance of export authorizations or its actual exports of the conventional arms covered under Article 2, 1.” Records of imports are also required, in each case to “be kept a minimum of 10 years.” These plus reporting requirements are likely to raise some hackles in the Senate. The phrase “gun registration by a different name” is reported to have already been heard, supposedly coming from the head of the National
Rifle Association.

If the executive branch of the federal government cleared these details with the NRA before Secretary Kerry went public at his treaty-signing ceremony, then the Senate might look indulgently on a presidential request for ratification of the treaty. But, time alone will tell, at least for those of us who have no special ear to the ground in Washington. I speak as the former owner, as a teenager, of a .22 caliber single-shot rifle and as the former custodian, when a U.S. naval officer, of a heavy-duty semi-automatic pistol.