Does it make a difference if the United States “adopts” an international treaty without the advice and consent of the Senate?
Back in the days before we were governed by hard-left ideologues, when presidents and members of their administrations felt they were constrained by the actual wording of on-the-books statutes (so-called “black-letter law”) and the Constitution, the answer would have been “no.”
Because the Constitution requires supermajority approval by the Senate to ratify treaties, it didn’t matter if the chief executive or a State Department minion signed one, it still wasn’t the law and didn’t bind anyone to any set of actions (or refraining from other actions).
But when the nation has a president who says he can do anything under his executive authority even if it contradicts current law, having a treaty on hand that the executive branch likes and wants to enforce is a whole new situation.
That’s why the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which was accepted by the State Department with the signature of Secretary of State John Kerry on Sept. 25, was immediately promoted overnight from the category of “terrible idea” to the much-more-worrisome position of “immediate menace.”
What could it do? At a minimum, it could result in banning the sales of foreign-made weapons to Americans and require the establishment of an international registry of private gun sales.
Such registries are banned in the United States, because they are essential to help governments confiscate private weapons.
As an article by David Fortier in Guns & Ammo magazine Sept. 27 noted, “The treaty establishes regulations for counties who sell or trade weapons across their borders. Official United Nations documentation would be required for the transaction of all types of weapons, from tanks to small arms.”
Although the treaty’s advocates say it would just affect country-to-country trade, a $70 billion-a-year business, it certainly applies to private sales across international borders, which typically require permits from the governments involved.
But having to register with your own government is a far different thing from being on one worldwide list established by an unaccountable international agency like the U.N., whose bureaucrats are not appointed by Americans, and whose rules are made by bodies that include the worst dictatorships on Earth.
Indeed, the U.N.’s most critical panels involving human rights have included such famed bastions of liberty as Libya, Syria and Iran.
As Fox News noted in a Sept. 26 article, “Supporters say the treaty sends a bold global message advocating the first-ever moral standards on the cross-border trade linked to human rights violations around the world. But to some on U.S. soil, the treaty treads into dangerous territory and could step on the constitutional rights of Americans.”
That’s because the treaty, which the U.N. has been working on since 2006, contains language that covers “small arms and light weapons” and this could include firearms owned by Americans.
As Fox noted, “According to the treaty, the international sale of weapons would be linked to the human rights records of buyers; it requires the countries that sign on to establish regulations for selling weapons. This has raised concern that the treaty could be used as an excuse to push new gun laws.
But the treaty also advocates keeping data of arms purchases, which the NRA and other groups say could be used as an international log to keep tabs on gun owners.”
The NRA has made its position clear: As Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told the United Nations in formal testimony in 2011, “The cornerstone of our freedom is the Second Amendment. Neither the United Nations, nor any other foreign influence, has the authority to meddle with the freedoms guaranteed by our Bill of Rights, endowed by our Creator, and due to all humankind.”
And he added:
— “We are told ‘Trust us; an ATT will not ban possession of any civilian firearms.’ Yet, the proposals and statements presented to date have argued exactly the opposite, and — perhaps most importantly — proposals to ban civilian firearms ownership have not been rejected.
— “We are told ‘Trust us; an ATT will not interfere with state domestic regulation of firearms.’ Yet, there are constant calls for exactly such measures.
— “We are told ‘Trust us; an ATT will only affect the illegal trade in firearms.’ But then we’re told that in order to control the illegal trade, all states must control the legal firearms trade.
— “We are told, ‘Trust us; an ATT will not require registration of civilian firearms.” Yet, there are numerous calls for record-keeping, and firearms tracking from production to eventual destruction. That’s nothing more than gun registration by a different name.
— “We are told, ‘Trust us; an ATT will not create a new international bureaucracy.’ Well, that’s exactly what is now being proposed — with a tongue-in-cheek assurance that it will just be a SMALL bureaucracy.”
One piece of good news is that the treaty will not become a part of formal international law until 50 nations ratify it, and so far only six have done so.
Kerry’s signature does not constitute U.S. ratification for that purpose. Two-thirds of the Senate would have to approve it for that to happen, and that seems highly unlikely anytime soon, as that body wouldn’t even approve gun regulations favored by President Obama and liberal leaders after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.
In fact, Obama has been put on notice by influential senators that he had better not take any action to put the treaty into effect on his own. As Fox reported, “Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the treaty raised significant legislative questions and warned the Obama administration against taking any action to implement the treaty without the Senate’s advice or consent.”
And Fox said, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was one of 35 senators who earlier this year co-sponsored a resolution warning how the treaty might infringe the constitutional rights of Americans.
“I’d like to see the U.N. try to send inspectors to the Texas State Rifle Association’s annual gathering,” Cornyn said in a statement after Kerry signed the treaty.
But then he warned, “Law-abiding Texans who are in the market for an imported shotgun, pistol, or rifle ought to be very concerned by the administration’s move.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., warned that if the ATT were ratified, “Make no mistake, they will ultimately register, ban and confiscate firearms owned by private citizens. Not long ago, Obama told Sarah Brady from the anti-gun Brady Campaign, ‘I just want you to know that we are working on (gun control). We have to go through a few processes, but under the radar.'”
And Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a letter to Kerry that the ATT is “dead in the water,” concluding, “The administration is wasting precious time trying to sign away our laws to the global community and unelected UN bureaucrats.”
Nevertheless, this president has shown, in unilateral actions involving Obamacare coverage, environmental regulations involving coal-fired power plants, the enforcement of voting rules and many other areas, that he really doesn’t care what the law says when it interferes with what he wants to do.
Americans worried about the ability to exercise their God-given rights to self-defense and resistance to tyranny, as protected by the Bill of Rights, had best be aware of how Obama and his hired guns might now act to deprive them of those rights.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: email@example.com