Sunday, July 10, 2011

NRA Fearmongering

Dear Friend in Freedom,

The U.N. is conspiring to destroy your gun rights. And Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are using the U.N. for their "under the radar" program for gun control in America.1
I'm writing today in response to a sky-is-falling email alert I received last week which opened with those lines. Why did I even get this alert? Because I'm a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA). I've used hunting rifles since elementary school (though not at school), and I'm currently licensed to carry concealed handguns. What formal training I've had has been through the NRA. And I concur with the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller,2 i.e. the Constitution provides an individual right to keep and bear arms, without requiring military service.

This personal background is important to show that I'm offering constructive criticism from the inside.

Lack of References

The email only mentions a "Small Arms Treaty." This is not the correct name, and it's incorrect in a somewhat misleading way. I had to do my own sleuthing through the U.N.'s terribly maintained website.

Short version:

Back in 2006, the U.N. passed a resolution (A/RES/61/89) titled "Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms."3

After a few in-between documents, the most up-to-date resolution is A/RES/64/48 "The arms trade treaty"4 from January 2010. I'll be detailing some of that in a bit.

This week, the U.N. will be holding its third meeting of the Preparatory Committee for an Arms Trade Treaty (aka PrepCom). All of this is preliminary work before hammering out a draft of the treaty itself. I think the plan is to do that next year.

A simple mention of A/RES/61/89 and the correct name "Arms Trade Treaty" would have allowed recipients of the NRA email to more easily check things out themselves.

Drawing Conclusions without Facts

Nothing from the U.N. documents themselves are quoted. Instead, the main argument seems to be that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are for it, so NRA members must automatically be against it. It doesn't matter what 'it' is. This is a pure appeal to prejudice, without even giving NRA members the courtesy of sketching the facts before telling them what to think.

Let me remedy this with a a couple of relevant quotes from Resolution 64/48:
Acknowledging the right of all States to manufacture, import, export, transfer and retain conventional arms for self-defence and security needs and in order to participate in peace support operations,
Acknowledging also the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within their territory,
Unless the treaty itself completely reverses the current intent, neither the overall military defense of the United States nor our individual constitutional right to keep and bear arms is under threat.

I certainly understand why the NRA would be interested in monitoring the situation. There could be undesirable side effects created by the specifics of the as-yet-unwritten treaty. I want the NRA to serve as a watchdog group, but I don't want it constantly barking at the wind.

1. Copy of the email viewable here:

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