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By Global Public Square staff
Amid all of Washington's discussions on Syria and Iran, one other issue seems to have gotten ignored. The U.S. signed an actual international treaty this month, one with vast implications for terrorism and war around the world. The problem is…the treaty needs to be ratified by the U.S. Senate – and that's just not going to happen.
Let us explain.
It's the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty – an agreement that aims to control the $70 billion global trade of weapons. Almost every major commodity is subject to some form of international regulation – gold, oil, currencies. But there have been few controls on the flow of weaponry. Countries have wanted to have an unregulated free-for-all in the weapons market. And we are not just talking about guns.
The U.N. treaty covers battle tanks, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships. These are all weapons that are playing a part in ongoing wars in Syria and large parts of Africa. As Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan put it last week, these are the true "weapons of mass destruction" as much as the chemical weapons that were used in Syria last month. And yet everyone – including rogue states, militias, and terrorist groups – seem to have unfettered access to them.
The key part of the U.N. treaty is that it asks signatories not to export weapons to groups or states that could use these weapons in crimes against humanity. Simple enough – don't send arms to Syria or Sudan or North Korea.
Who could object to this?
The United States Senate. Critics of the treaty – most prominently the gun lobby in Washington – claim that somehow the Obama administration will use the treaty as a backdoor to impose gun controls in the United States. So they explain that the treaty would violate the Second Amendment, and infringe upon our constitutional right to bear arms.
Except that this is simply factually wrong. Here are the exact words from the treaty as it stands: The treaty affirms "the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system.”
Sounds pretty clear. The issue is not about gun control in the United States. This is about stopping dictators from acquiring tanks, missiles, and attack helicopters that can kill tens of thousands in a day. It is about making it harder for terrorist groups to buy dangerous weapons.
The other, broader critique is that treaties tend to have no real impact, because they're not enforceable. But they do make it harder for really bad guys to get guns.
The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty has already taken seven years to negotiate. Clauses have been inserted to allay American fears. We are the world's number one exporter of arms. Now remember, of the 154 countries that voted to sign the treaty in April, only three countries voted no: Syria, Iran, and North Korea. By not ratifying, that is the company we will be keeping?